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Mischief and Malice Contest - Results

Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
Mischief and Malice One-Shot Contest Results

It's time at last to reveal the results of our Mischief and Malice one-shot contest! This was our biggest contest yet, with twenty-one entries, and it's clear our authors were really loving the theme. There's a lot going on in the results thread here, so I'll give a brief overview of all the information you can find here before I unveil our winners.

The next post in this thread is an index with summaries of all the stories submitted to the contest, with links to anywhere they've been published, a link to their highlight post in this thread, and an interview with the author (if available) giving some insight into their entry. It'll give you a quick overview of the entries and help you decide which ones you'd like to read!

After that, each submitted story gets its own highlight post. Each of these contains an excerpt from the story to give you a taste of what it's like, links to anywhere it's been published, and the judges' feedback for the story.

Each judge ordered the list of stories from their number one pick to their last pick. Their score for a story was determined based on the point scale below, and then the points awarded to a story by each judge were summed up to yield the story's final overall score. Stories were ranked based on their overall score, and the top three became our winners!

Place - Points
21st - 10
20th - 20
19th - 30
18th - 40
17th - 50
16th - 60
15th - 70
14th - 80
13th - 90
12th - 100
11th - 110
10th - 125
9th - 140
8th - 155
7th - 170
6th - 190
5th - 210
4th - 235
3rd - 260
2nd - 290
1st - 325

The ranks and point totals are not published with the results, but have been retained in case they're needed.

Before I announce the winners, I'd also like to thank our judges bluesidra, SparklingEspeon, and windskull for all their hard work. We had many more entries than I was expecting, and they nevertheless turned the judging around in record time. Amazing work from all three of you; thanks so much for volunteering! I'd also like to thank Bluwiikoon, HelloYellow17, and kyeugh for providing prizes for this event!

And finally, the big reveal: congratulations to this year's one-shot contest winners, Vexology in first place, Torchic in second, and canisaries in third!
 

Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
Mischief and Malice Contest Entries

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"Dawning" by Farla
Gololyod woke to find a hailstorm outside and dark clouds coating the skies above, so naturally she set out to visit her friend, only for the weather to turn brutal. Can anything save this terrible day she's having?
Links: Judges' Comments | AO3


What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

OC pokemon. I was thinking about the idea of a lucky rabbit's foot and more broadly how humans sometimes quite like the things they're hunting, and also how certain pokemon evolution lines seem to be trying to become more humanlike. Humans tend to have stories about animals trying to copy humans who are doing it because they view humans as the highest form of creature - but humans regularly have beliefs or whole religions because they think something's neat while remaining secure that they're on another level of importance. What could the pokemon version of that to humans be?

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

Well, I write plenty of villains. I don't really think of them as usually much different in thought process - it's really down to the decisions they make for me. But in this case, because the theme was villain POV, I wanted to do something straightforward with someone who doesn't have any qualms about the situation. They don't know this is wrong but feel like they have reasons that justify it, they aren't unaware or mistaken about something, they don't even have any niggling questions about anything.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

I spent a lot of time thinking about inversions and how, if your natural living conditions were far below freezing and you were actually healed up by getting pelted by ice, you probably have some very different associations - cold/warm, of course, but also stuff like smooth (wet) vs rough, dark/light, etc.


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"The Drawing Board" by K_S
The grunts of Dim Sun were experienced escapees from other failed syndicates.

So when a ten-year-old thwarted the Boss's first step of the "grand master plan"?

Check your passports, get your crowbars, and anything not nailed down on the way out was fair game.

Links: Judges' Comments

What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

Honestly, the Team I picked was second fiddle to the scenario in my mind. A bunch of washed-out, amoral, grunts with no ties to anyone beyond greed.

After I built up my cast I realized most mainstream game Teams were nationalistic. And I wanted a break from kanto/jhoto which was one of the few that was not. That left me to scourge the off-shoot games and thus Dim Sun became a refuge for the escapee ex-grunts from their home regions...

As the cast joined "the worst cooking class ever" and here we are.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

I honestly spend more time in my villain's heads than my heroes. Giovanni's been my main "go to" perspective for years... So writing a hero is harder just by sheer lack of practice.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

For fun... Frank. The sneasel whisperer and one-man ice cream stand in the obligatory snow/ice level. He was meant to be a one-line gag and strolled out of the base, hot coco in hand and I was like... I can not fridge this guy just yet...

For interesting... The side effect of overdoing the 'mon mind control machinery was as much a surprise to me as it was to the main cast.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

Honestly, I didn't write this to win. Just to try my hand at humor and see if I could give a few people a laugh...

I also wound up sheering off like... Ten or so pages because I was dancing on the edge of the word count cap with what I finally did turn in.

So if things feel a little abrupt or like something might be missing... Well, they kinda are and I am undecided as to if I want to address that post contest or not.

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"Eidolon" by AbraPunk
Rumors had spread that Eikris' Sentinel, the Eidolon of Bloodshed, had recently been seen atop the Windless Peaks.
Links: Judges' Comments | TR





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"Hunting Game" by Spiteful Murkrow
When a Pokémon partners with a human, they share the same triumphs, the same trials. Even if it means going to faraway lands, even if it means braving dangers, even if it means facing the unknown.

It's the same for you, and that is what brought you, your human, and your friends to this place: to go hunting game.

Links: Judges' Comments | AO3 | FFN | BMG | SPP | TR

What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

I chose to write a story about poachers and their Pokémon in a mainline setting plying their trade, as seen from the poachers' Pokémon themselves. It's one of those perspectives that we know canonically exists, but haven't ever gotten that solid of a view from official material. Writing stories that aren't told very often has always been my jam as a writer, so the premise just struck me as up my alley.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

Honestly, it was a matter of the stars aligning with a flash of inspiration. Given my track record at contest writing, I’m not sure if I'd have made the submission deadline without that lucky break. I happened to have come up with a "prompt I’d like to get to someday" almost exactly two weeks prior to the contest’s start that dealt with a Pokémon portrayed as "basic and average" that built up towards a reveal that they were the partner of an active poacher. The final product wound up turning out a bit different from that original concept, but the overall vibe and character mindset I wanted to pull off is still there.

As for the question of writing from a villain’s POV… it’s not that different from writing from a hero's POV, actually. The primary difference is that villains wear their character flaws on their shoulders a bit more openly, and every now and then they do things that remind you that they’re villains. I attempted to pull that dynamic off with Dali as a character in my story, who was built around the premise of being a Pokémon who if just a few things were different, would be an admirable example of a Pokémon that’s loyal and caring towards one's trainer. At the same time, I aimed for character that, for obvious reasons, would be one that wasn't quite that admirable type.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

There were two things in particular that were the parts of Hunting Game I had the most fun with writing out:

The first was just knuckling down and coming up with a depiction of how Pokéballs work from the inside after years of indecisive waffling as a writer. I'll admit that I drew more than a little influence from that one episode of Gurren Lagann for some of the visual effects, but it was definitely something that challenged me to put my thinking cap on. I'm pretty happy with how the final product turned out, and will likely be using some version of that depiction for a long time to come in the future.

The second and bigger thing that stood out for being fun to write was trying to portray characters and how they perceived things from behind a language barrier. It was a bit of an experiment to try and write scenarios where Dali was completely in the dark about things that were happening and others where she could get an imperfect picture of what was going on. It was a bit of a tightrope act at times, but it was a fun challenge to try and get inside the head of how a trainer's Pokémon might see their circumstances and the world around them, the things they’d pick up on things that their trainers wouldn't, as well as the things their trainers would understand that would go lost in translation.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

Well, first and foremost, I would like to thank the folks who I bounced ideas off of and who looked things over during the contest. I'd like to extend a special thanks to @BestLizard, who beta read the story prior to final submission, and to @zoru22 and @canisaries, whose suggestions for Pokémon species to focus on being poached wound up letting the pieces of this one-shot's story fall into place.

The other thing that I’d like readers to know is that part of the reason why I wrote Hunting Game was to use it as a mechanical pilot for where I wanted to take a one-shot series I had waiting in the wings at the time of writing. It was what ultimately informed the narrative perspective used in the story and the specific Pokémon chosen as a viewpoint character for it. Now, Hunting Game wound up massively outgrowing the scope of that one-shot series and its tone turned out very different from its other entries by the end. Both of those things kinda put the kibosh on plans of publishing Hunting Game under its umbrella, but eh. Some stories are better served as standalone narratives, and this is probably one of them.

Now, for all I know, the final published version of this one-shot might go live with a fairly different perspective or with other major structural changes depending on what the judges have to say about it. After all, at the time of writing this interview, I didn’t know how some of the stylistic and mechanical choices used by this story sat with them. That said, if you like what you read from whatever the final published version of Hunting Game winds up looking like but want something a bit shorter and less heavy to dig into... stay tuned.

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"Into Light" by canisaries
Third-Place Winner
One fateful day in Ilex Forest, Ken’s wife was taken from him by ghost-type pokémon. Five years later, a troupe of misdreavus arrives to the same woods, and the local townspeople seem to welcome them with open arms. Ken, on the other hand, won’t rest until they’re gone.
Links: Judges' Comments | TR

What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

I basically knew from day one that I would be writing about an OC. I’ve never felt brave enough to try and actually portray any canon character (my Red clearly doesn’t count) since I feel like I should know every single little thing about them before even attempting, not have I ever really felt all that inspired by the bad guys the canon has had to offer.

I think the idea about a guy that really hates ghosts and wants to exorcise as many as he can came to me pretty early, but I’m not sure where the rest of the concept came from. I just know that when I figured it out, I was really excited because it felt clever and dramatic and I knew I might actually be able to pull it off. It really felt like a milestone as a writer to go for a story so different from what I usually write.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

I have, of course, written from a villain POV before (Red), but this POV was quite different from his and really much more like a hero’s in the sense that Ken clearly has sympathy for other humans and is driven by a strong sense of morality… or just hatred that he pretends is morality and believes it, too. In any case, I don’t actually think the POVs of a villain and a hero are fundamentally different. People generally want to be the heroes of their own lives, and the worst people are the ones that can’t view themselves in any other way.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

I loved writing Chip because I love animals and I so rarely get to write Pokemon as actual animals in the HHverse due to the whole mess of my sapience worldbuilding - but my favorite was definitely the end, when everything unravels. It’s just so intense.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

Spoilers for the ending: The ghosts weren’t lying about Chip. They’re taking good care of him, and he is happy.


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"Like You Belong" by kintsugi
‘A pokémon proposed to the others to always be ready to help humans. / It asked that pokémon be ready to appear before humans always.’ // Hayate attends Jubilife’s 300th anniversary festival.
Links: Judges' Comments | AO3 | TR


What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

My villain is an OC! Shocking, I kNow.

I wanted my villain to be [mild spoilers] a pokemon, but undeniably choosing a villainous path while understanding the consequences of their actions. A lot of my stories operate on spectrums of morality and choice, and because this contest already pre-determined a morality, I wanted a protagonist who fully commits to their choice.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

A lot of my protagonists are more detrimental to their well-being than the apparent antagonists, so you'd think this would be easy for me. Instead I kept hitting my head against what the story would even be about. This prompt was super interesting to me, since it requires us to reconisder what even makes a villain in the first place—most everyone sees their own actions as justified, and you only really become a villain when enough people agree you're one. But I am terrible at agreeing with things.

Ultimately I was drawn to the idea of change over time, and how we lionize the people our ancestors despised while likely despising the people our descendants will lionize. The villain I ended up writing will probably be despised by both ancestors and descendants, but the root of the story was still intriguing enough that I felt like I could still make a cohesive story without redeeming my villain or removing an interesting character arc from them.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

I really enjoyed the chance to mix Hisui (as we experience it in Legends Arceus) and old Sinnoh (as we see it in the Canalave library myths in Diamond and Pearl).

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"Nameless" by HelloYellow17
A young Larvitar sets out to become the strongest Pokémon there is. Her journey comes at a high price.
Links: Judges' Comments | TR



What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

The idea for this story had actually been floating around in my head for a while—I wanted to not only experience writing from a villain’s POV, but also from the perspective of becoming a villain. I especially wanted to glean Shadow Pokémon POV from a Pokémon that embraced this new, twisted version of themselves, rather than becoming mindless or afraid of what they’ve become.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

Yes and no! Perhaps it’s not entirely new territory for me because I spend most of my time writing an anti-hero character in the first place, but it’s really interesting to see how similar villains and heroes can actually be. They both have their convictions and goals and dreams. They both have a strong, iron-clad will and passion for what they believe in. The difference in this particular story is that the villain isn’t doing anything out of a sense of justice, of right and wrong; instead, the motivation is completely rooted in self-improvement, in becoming stronger, regardless of what the consequences may be.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

Honestly, all of it was pretty fun, but I really loved working with symbolism and repeated motifs. Using the theme of names throughout to showcase her growth and transformation, using her apricorn to symbolize her innocence, etc.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

Not that I can think of! Only that I hope you enjoyed it! 💛


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"Negotiations with a Stranger" by Inkedust
The life of a dark conqueror isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Sure, there's all the might and glory but all the behind-the-scenes work is really, quite menial. Things appear to be shaping up to be yet another night of thankless work but then, a stranger comes to visit.
Links: Judges' Comments | TR


What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

PMD has always had its wide array of and potential for interesting villains and I went back-and-forth a ton during the conceptualising phase. I ended up with three ideas in the end: A one-shot focused on Munna from Gates to Infinity and how she became disillusioned with the world; a one-shot focused on an outlaw who had grown old and was ready to pass on his fortune; and, finally, what Negotiations With a Stranger ended up being - a one-shot that focused on two villains having a dialogue, comparing their evil schemes and trying to one-up each other. I was drawn most to the latter as it had the most potential for fun and humorous interactions.

The Stranger was a character who'd been living in my head rent-free for a couple months before the contest and while I want to implement him into my main fic, I wasn't exactly sure how. I could definitely implement him into this one-shot though. PMDarkrai was chosen as the PoV for a couple reasons. The first being that I thought that he would've been a good foil to the Stranger - not only do their general goals/styles of villainy conflict but I thought that Darkrai's more serious personality bounced off the Stranger's more trollish tendencies well. The second reason being that I felt as if Darkrai was under-baked/underutilised in the source material and a chance to expand on that with my own take was always enticing to me.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

Not exactly. Based on experience, my general style of character writing is giving myself a few main bulletpoints then going onto the page from there. With Darkrai and the Stranger, it was simply a matter of cranking the Bastard up to eleven and allowing myself to go wild. Darkrai also had the advantage of being pulled from canon, while made things both easier and harder for me. Easier that I already had a baseline to go off of. Harder because I had to keep pausing to think if I was being faithful to the character.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

While I could just point to the Stranger and call it a day (seriously, he's one of the major reasons why this one-shot was such a delight to write), I think my favourite scene overall would have to be the bit in Dark Crater Pit where the Stranger finally reveals his hand. He's a knowledgeable character who knows a lot more about the world than he lets on and finally letting that show just put the dumbest smile on my face. It also gave me a chance to show more of the inner workings of the world, which is always a plus.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

The Stranger is a mysterious character who travels to many places. You might've already met him before 🙂.

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"New Moon" by seatherny
Left alone with naught but tears and bones.
Links: Judges' Comments | TR





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"A Perfect World" by BestLizard
Mewtwo's grand vision of creating a new, perfect world is jeopardized at the last moment - Mew, who'd repopulate life, is injured. With so much of the world already destroyed, finding treatment for Mew becomes his hardest struggle yet.
Links: Judges' Comments | AO3 | FFN | TR


What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

To answer this, I should role back a bit. I was heavily inspired by the final episode of Devilman Crybaby (needless to say, I'll speak spoilers of that show). What really struck out to me about that episode is that the villain's true need wasn't what he thought he wanted - but he only realizes his true need after his own actions have depraved him of a chance to fulfil it.

I wanted to write a story like that, but that also meant there was a lot of options to choose from. So choosing one wasn't too hard, and I ended up gravitating to Mewtwo. I believe he's often seen as the archetypical villain legendary, even if he usually becomes a sympathetic figure. Everything else just fell into place. Mewtwo has strong ties to Mew, who is the common ancestor of all Pokemon; Mewtwo was a lab experiment, designed to be a tool for strength; etc. The first "Pokemon Villain" that came to head just happened to really fit what I wanted to create.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

I'm in an odd spot because my philosophy with characters is that there's no such things are bad guys. People can do absolutely horrid things, but peel enough off, you'll find a sympathetic element to these characters. That in the end, people aren't good or bad - they're flawed.

But ultimately, it means I don't write villains much different from heroes. Mewtwo was strongly motivated by a sense of righteousness: he wants to see a world that's better to live in for both himself and the person he cares most about. He also sees other Pokemon and humans as undeserving of mercy or life - that they're evil, not far from how we preceive Goblins in LotR or the Empire in Star Wars - so he doesn't feel guilt when he makes his actions. Of course, to fit the story's theme, I still made him a "villain" in that his actions when seen a surface level (and a lot of other levels) are still abhorrent and intolerable, but I hope this use of perspective makes people think about the nature of "evil".

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

The world decaying around Mewtwo. There's obviously a lot of power to convey tone through setting, but I think its especially powerful when both the tonne and setting changes over time. It starts out a more typical apocalypse landscape - wreckage, desert, burnt forests, fresh corpses. But as Mewtwo continues his search, it deteriorates. It becomes alien, bizarre, and unrecognizable - a coat of yellow with no hard edges. Something you can't even touch, with no remains around to remind you that was once alive. It was fun writing a world that became more and more hopeless, that Mewtwo's goal to rescue Mew started out as optimism to desperation to disillusionment of reality.

In fact, my goal was to write something as far away as the idea of "a perfect world" as possible so when Mew says the world is perfect because of her love of Mewtwo, it would have an impact. And there's a rich irony to Mewtwo trying to create a perfect world for Mew, that already was perfect. It's a lot of fun thinking about smart I feel coming up with that contrast.

The kaiju were also fun to write. I enjoy making monsterous creatures be sympathetic and even approachable.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

Mew creates life through magic and nothing baroque, so please don't assume any obscene subtexts or anything :notlikethis:

I think I have a soft spot for bittersweet apocalyptic stories. When I wrote this wasn't far afterwards the PMD Writer's Union had their own one-shot competition, which I wrote a piece about the moon falling and two lovers finding each other before it happens. If you enjoy this, dig around for "Together!", because it's not far in tone from this one!

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"The Problem of the Pidove" by The Walrein
Ghetsis' hopes for escaping an endless meeting of the Seven Sages early are dashed when someone brings up a tricky question: What should Team Plasma do about all the Pidove inhabiting Unova's cities? Even if all Pokemon are liberated from their trainers, the poor Pidove will still be subject to the corrupting influence of humanity! Something must be done! It'll take all of Ghetsis' will and guile to talk the Sages out of their many brilliant solutions...
Links: Judges' Comments | TR

What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

I focused on Ghetsis in this one! Five of the other Seven Sages of Team Plasma are also there, although they're more misguided than villainous. This was a story where the idea came first for me, rather than a decision to focus on any particular characters - what if (most of) Team Plasma's leadership was sincere about wanting to separate humans from Pokemon? What would that actually look like in practice? How would they handle urban Pokemon?

Naturally, this led to writing from Ghetsis' perspective, as he makes the ideal "straight man" to contend with the Sages' naive and impractical idealism.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

I didn't find it to be particularly different - writing characters with quirky personality flaws is a natural part of comedy. From that perspective, Ghetsis' obsession with taking over Unova is just another quirk.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

I think I had the most fun writing Ghetsis' interactions with the Shadow Triad ninja (spoilers!). Ninjas are just inherently enjoyable to write about, I guess!

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

Please excuse any spelling or grammar mistakes; I procrastinated super-hard and wrote almost the entire thing in roughly the last five hours before it was due.


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"Rebirth" by Seren
In the wake of Ghetsis' failure to conquer Unova, the rebirth of Team Plasma requires only one thing: the feather of the legendary Ho-Oh.
Links: Judges' Comments



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"Rouge Planet" by Commander Mercury
Saturn picks up the pieces in the wake of Cyrus' disappearance.
Links: Judges' Comments





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"A Sense of Self" by Blackjack Gabbiani
Mitsumi has only known life as a Galactic, so coming into contact with a normal social ritual raises some unusual questions.
Links: Judges' Comments | AO3 | TR



What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

Team Galactic has long been my favorite, and I love the Diamond and Pearl Adventure! manga, where they play a large role. Mitsumi in particular needs more attention! She's such an interesting character, and delving into her upbringing as a Galactic officer is an untapped gold mine. After all, she was raised by Cyrus himself!

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

I usually write villain fics so this is my wheelhouse. But overall not really. Differences are more individually based rather than categories like hero or villain. "What is this person like" is the most important thing, no matter who you're writing about.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

Kid Mitsumi acting like a more typical kid! In the current time that DPA takes place, she tries so hard to act like a "normal person", with varying results. It takes having to confront her past before she can really be comfortable in her own skin, so I thought about what that would have been like when she was still in training.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

Read DPA! It's so good and it's only eight volumes.

Also, the idea of her first partner being a Duskull comes from a fic I wrote for a zine that never happened, so I haven't printed it anywhere. I should, but it's on a very old laptop that won't turn on any more. But I can keep trying!

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"Spun So Sugar Sweet" by vexology
First-Place Winner
Don't eat it all at once.
Links: Judges' Comments | AO3 | TR


What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

I wrote a villainous pokemon OC. I've been thinking about fairy types in the deep wilderness for a while. Pokemon has a lot of mundane, grounded magic so I thought it'd be fun to contrast that with fantastical, fairy tale magic.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

They're emotionally pretty similar. I often enjoy characters that are objectively awful people. Usually, I don't go in intending to write characters as heroes or villains so much as characters that have reasons for their actions. So, in order to write a villain for this contest, I made the reasons and the actions awful.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

The food descriptions.


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"Stable Predictable Safe" by unrepentantAuthor
Humans summoned from another world to take on pokémon form... Many have been heroes, with their adaptability, determination and strength in battle. Some, however, use those same qualities to do terrible things – so long as they can justify their actions to themselves. What is a little enhanced interrogation, when you're making a better world? A world that is stable, predictable, safe.
Links: Judges' Comments

What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

Matthias is an OC of mine, created to serve as an antagonistic character in my PMD setting. I'd known for a while that he was a former human with issues, but he needed development, which the competition gave me an opportunity to do. What excites me about him is his awareness that his actions are villainous. He considers them a necessary evil, in service of a greater good. I wanted to discover what goes on in his head to justify his decisions, and I found he constantly holds himself to rigid standards of acceptable behaviour to preserve what shreds of his morality yet survive. I've always found that sort of antagonist fascinating, and I enjoyed getting to write one!

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

Maybe it's just because I'm used to writing fucked-up protagonists and heroes who end up as someone else's villain, but I didn't really find writing a villain POV more distinct from writing heroic POVs than any POV is from another to begin with. On the other hand, writing a character who's ostensibly comfortable with inflicting intense cruelty on others was a bit of a head trip in its own right, and I definitely wouldn't have the stamina to write tens of thousands of words from this guy's perspective without a mental health break!

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

I think I had the most fun using Matthias as a means to whump Jesse – giving a protagonist a hard time from a villainous perspective is oddly satisfying! The most interesting part was working in Matthias' memory and identity trauma. He doesn't even know why he's so upset by volatility and defiance, but joining an evil organisation is easier than going to therapy, I suppose.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

My PMD works, and Pen's wonderful oneshot, No Quarter, are all part of the same continuity. In fact, there's another sinister pokémon in No Quarter who has some off-screen association with Matthias... and you can certainly expect him to show up again some day. Matthias' goals and organisation are left rather shadowy in Stable, Predictable, Safe but they're sure to get more attention from me in the future. Stay tuned!

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"Tarnishing" by kyeugh
A new name means a new life, but the grip of Team Rocket isn't so easily broken.
Links: Judges' Comments




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"To Each His Own" by Lord Knee
From a young age, he understood that the world was riddled with impurities -- the most prominent one being spirit. Such a thing was meaningless to have and feel, for it only led to more unnecessary pain and bitterness. Regardless, the world carried on, harboring spirit as if it was crucial for living a full and complete life. But, if no one else was competent enough to understand how wrong that was, then he would just have to take matters into his own hands.

A rendition of Cyrus' story told in four parts.

Links: Judges' Comments

What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

I decided to write about Team Galactic's Boss, Cyrus, from Pokémon DPPT -- I was more familiar with him, even though I felt a bit more in touch with the newer villains that've been introduced in the generations that came after. I also wanted to try writing a character from the mainline Pokémon games since I've never done so before. But I think the biggest motivator was that I didn't really know much about Cyrus like I had originally thought. I remember thinking back to comments on miscellaneous videos that had said stuff like "he was frightening because he didn't care about anything" or "he's one of the saddest characters to be born in the happiest of places" -- and from there, I grew more curious.

Additionally, because I decided to focus on the events of Pokémon Platinum, I felt even more out of the loop with everything since I was more acquainted with Diamond/Pearl and how those games followed through. This included not knowing much about the late game events and other information that's given by NPCs about Cyrus in the Platinum version. So I ended up looking up stuff and skimming repeatedly through a video that showed all of Cyrus' interactions with the player, essentially re-learning his entire character. Plus, I've always loved his Vs. theme, so that was an added bonus!

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

I think it was a little bit different to write from a villain's perspective, but I tried to approach it in a way that was similar to how I would write any other character. The process in doing so still felt odd.

I guess it was because in other times I've written villains, I've never put a lot of emphasis on how the villain themselves interpreted events, more so focusing on how the hero would see the villain instead. So focusing heavily on Cyrus' perspective, and writing his journey toward what he aimed to accomplish was a strange experience. It forced me to think differently on how I portrayed him so that it was both accurate enough to his character and highlighted his reasons as to why his ideologies made sense to him. And with doing so, it honestly made me feel bad for him since he was originally just a person that needed a little more care introduced into his life.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

The most interesting and fun part was writing the entire story with no dialogue. I've never done so before and it wasn't something I was going to do initially, but the story seemed to flow better that way. It pushed me to be more descriptive and I had fun creating some form of an emotional atmosphere through description alone rather than having people talk to set that tone.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

One thing is that Sunyshore City is mentioned a lot for symbolism. I figured that with growing up there for a good chunk of his childhood, he still has a tiny part of him still tethered to Sunyshore -- a city that he could never call home but desperately yearned to. Despite him pushing away his birth city, and replacing all thoughts of it with his new goals, that small part of him still continues to flash up during specific moments, creating a sense of doubt within him that makes him question whether or not he truly wants to go through with everything. I guess that deep down he still wanted to be a carefree child that could've experienced the things that he has now grown to despise and the brief flashes of Sunyshore are a constant reminder of that want.

Another thing is that the sand that Cyrus lets stream through his fingers in the beginning are supposed to represent the later Distortion World waterfalls at the end of the story. I'm not sure how well this connection made it through though since it was kind of a last minute forced connection.

Lastly, the first title I had for this story was going to be Much Ado About Nothing before I decided on the current one!

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"To Speak Again" by Starlight Aurate
A wandering merchant, Alistair, and his Lucario, Voleur, travel the world in search of fine items and sell them at outrageous prices to make as much money as they can. Somewhere along their travels, Voleur loses his ability to use his aura. As Alistair is also a skilled magician, he does whatever he can in attempts to get Voleur's aura back. Their travels take them back to Alistair's home, where he finds that his in-law, Victoria, has the ability to use aura, and concocts a plan to transfer her power to Voleur.
Links: Judges' Comments

What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

I chose to write two original villains for my story. I had been wanting to write a character along the lines a "snake oil salesman" and was inspired by Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog: he's charming, a devious salesman, but is also a capable magician. I aimed to write someone who would be charming and likeable at first glance but is much more devious and dangerous once you get to know him.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

Yes and no. Yes it differs because, in my experience, I had to be willing to show the protagonist's willingness to do morally objectionable things (killing defenseless people, stealing items, lying, coercing a young woman to take part in a magic act she doesn't want to). Because my story is a duo of villains operating together, even they disagree on what's right and wrong--one kills an elderly woman without a second thought while the other thinks it was unnecessary.

I found it largely did not differ because I write from a "villain's" POV all the time--the main characters in my fic are all members of Team Aqua and Team Magma, so there's a lot of disagreement about what's right or wrong there. And for me, every character has hopes, dreams, wants, and desires; no villain believes himself to be evil, and everyone views himself to be the hero of his own story. So I find it similar to writing how I would write a hero, just with different values and different motivations.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

I'm a sucker for climaxes, and I really liked writing the part where Voleur is taking Victoria's aura. I enjoyed creating the scene, involving the magic, and showing how joyous Voleur was immediately afterwards.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

Another source of inspiration for me was that I wanted to write a story that dealt with trauma. Being under Alistair's magic is a very traumatizing experience for Victoria. I wanted to show that Alistair somewhat cared for Victoria (saying he wouldn't force her to partake in magic if she didn't want to) but then also being desperate enough that he did force her anyway. I originally wanted to write the story, or at least half of it, from Victoria's perspective: what it was like going through the traumatic event and the aftermath when she's home and physically unhurt but psychologically unwell. I didn't think writing from her POV would fit the theme and would make the one-shot too long, so I may make a different story out of it.


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"We Don't Speak His Name" by Torchic W. Pip
Second-Place Winner
As Team Rocket gains influence and power on a regional and national level, Proton is tasked with leading the Hoenn branch. In addition to getting Team Magma and Aqua to cooperate and keeping them from killing each other, he must also kidnap the Champion during the siege of Sootopolis City and force him to summon Rayquaza. Depending on who you ask, there’s either no problems with this plan, or there’s only one: The Champion is Proton’s nephew, and Proton hates his family.
Links: Judges' Comments | AO3 | BGM | TR

What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

The story is about Rainbow Rocket, specifically Team Magma/Aqua/Rocket, specifically Team Rocket, specifically Proton. I've been kicking around the idea of "Proton is Wallace's estranged uncle" for a while, but this oneshot contest finally gave me a chance to do something with that. (I was originally considering doing Megalos, a villain OC from my ficverse, but I saved my Megalos ideas for the chapter about him.) I was really interested in writing a truly sadistic character along with my works' common themes of generational trauma, dysfunctional family, and—of course—whumping funny fish beret man.

My running joke in my head was that this oneshot is "Encanto but from the perspective of Bruno but if Bruno was actually evil". Proton is a bit of a blank slate with a few defining characteristics, and so I could project as much as I want.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

In some ways, writing a villain isn't too different from writing a hero. You have to give both motivations, moral codes, obstacles, etc. But also... Villains can get away with a lot more ProblematicTM stuff than heroes, lol.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

I liked writing the messed up family dynamics in the Papadakis family. At the center, there's the dynamic between Proton and Wallace, but there's also the wife and child Proton abandoned, the internal rivalries going on among the family. Oh yeah and Izumi getting to call Proton out for being a sadistic monster. That part was incredibly fun to write.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

I am absolutely shocked by how much of this I was able to write per day. I think I finished the first draft in a week? That's the power of friendship and Sprinto. Oh also Ferdinand appears in this one.

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"What We Do for Our Children" by JosthTheWriter
What We Do for Our Children is the first of my planned Giovanni fic series. This story follows Giovanni’s attempts to experiment with the multiverse (by way of Hoopa) as a potential tool to achieve his goals. Unfortunately, Silver is captured after handing off a Hoopa-related artefact in Kalos. Giovanni is internally tortured by his son’s capture and gets the idea to use Hoopa (who is absurdly more powerful than expected) to get him back. It goes over very explosively, with Giovanni using Hoopa’s full power to draw combatants from across the multiverse as he makes his rescue attempt.
Links: Judges' Comments | AO3 | TR


What villain or villains did you choose to focus on in your story? What drew you to write about them?

I chose Giovanni/Silver (and Giovanni’s failed relationship with his son) as the main focus of this one, because he is the main driver of conflict in the fic-universe.

Giovanni views himself as the hero of his story. He thinks that every action he takes is for the greater survival of humanity. He started Rocket as his and Lance’s own black ops group to handle all the unsavoury acts that he thinks are necessary.

Did you find the experience of writing from a villain's POV any different than writing from a hero's POV? Why or why not?

I didn’t really take any different of an approach to writing this story than I usually would have. Giovanni essentially sees himself a good guy in this story, albeit one who is willing to do terrible things to get the outcome he wants. The story however, treats him like he is the hero.

What was the most fun or interesting part of your story to write?

The most fun part of the fic for me was Giovanni’s assault on the Kalosian Rivière. He travels there through Hoopa’s rings and uses a multitude of “What If?” styled multiverse pokemon (Heatran, Mega Eon Twins, Ultra Necrozma) to get his son back.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

If anything, I want readers to know that this is only a single part of a planned spin-off series of my main fic. This Giovanni is my Giovanni and he is the central antagonist of Journey’s world.

I have more planned Giovanni stories, all of them similar in tone and premise to this one. As well, I’m intending to take the feedback on this story and expand it into something not constrained by word counts.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Dawning" by Farla

"Oh no..." Gololyod groaned. "How could something so terrible happen?"

It was the most miserable time of the year, one she preferred to spend inside as much as possible, but this morning Gololyod had found the weather was unusually cozy when she ventured outside. Hail had cuddled up against her as soon as she ventured into open air, and the sky was a cheery flat grey. She resolved to take advantage of such a nice day and set out to visit Neve, who she hadn't seen since before the new moon.

Neve lived by herself on a sun-bitten peak at the southern edge of the mountains. There was no helping it. Neve grew nucleation crystals, and that was simply the best place in the whole mountain range for it, but the gulf between there and the rest of the mountain range could be brutally searing even on a nice day. As slippery a trip as it could be for Gololyod, she was one of the biggest and toughest in their whole community, able to endure the worst extremes, while Neve was slim and frail even for a froslass and struggled to traverse the valley in spring and fall. In the dead of summer, Neve was practically trapped. And Neve was an adult, same as Gololyod, and maybe she shouldn't fuss so much, but Neve never ate many greens even when they were nicely frozen for her, and it'd be months before that was true again.

Unfortunately, Gololyod had misjudged the weather. The first part of her journey went perfectly, over old, icy snow chunks. In good cheer, she gathered herself to try to speed through the lower forest while it was still pleasant, only for the fair weather of the morning to evaporate right after she reached the tree line. Even un-seen, the sun's heat struck her like getting hit by the full force of a river.

Gololyod reacted the only reasonable way one can to the sun suddenly coming out from behind the clouds: she gave up, collapsed face-first into the ground, and bewailed her fate...


Read the rest on: AO3

Judge Comments

bluesidra

Muhahaha…. I shall make my next ice-stone evo with increased evil joy!

Plans aside, this was a really fun read! The description of the human through the narrative voice was something else! What a funny little creature struggling for its life.

The narrator feels like a resolute elderly lady who’s on her way to her friend for coffee and watching some 80s sitcom and I’m very much down for it. Except for the part where she sees the sun and just lays on the floor in agony. That’s just me on any given day.

And you captured the cold- and remoteness of this place really well. This is all aided by the fringe horror hidden beneath the grandma-talk of slowly being frozen to death and unable to do something about it. But yay, sweet pokemon grannies, amirite? I will definitely bookmark this for when I get into that little froslass episode myself.

SparklingEspeon

Huh, this is a interesting one! Xeno-pov is one I probably should have expected, but didn’t. It’s a nice surprise to see one show up anyway!

Straight up, I like how something that most humans would probably see as terrifying and inhumane just gets played up as a normal day for the frosslass pov characters. After all, a frosslass isn’t a human, so there’s no reason that they need to think like or have the same morality scale as a human either. Another tidbit I found myself liking was that just like a human might shrink back from the cold and darkness, Gololyod hates the sun and trees. When she meets a human, she thinks its clothes and the sounds it makes are silly, and treats it much like we would a dog. When the human she’s just taken along with her like a handbag starts protesting once it gets too cold, she freezes them just enough to silence them, but still leave them alive anyway. She very much feels like a funhouse mirror that reflects something but distorts it until it’s no longer really the same anymore.

I think the more interesting portion of the oneshot is in the handling of the villain theme, though. Though Gololyod has some differing ideas about what makes for good living conditions etc. in a vacuum, her behaviors aren’t really too out there - they’re human. The entire oneshot has some off-kilter vibes because it’s treated like an outing to lunch, and for Gololyod, it probably is. But it doesn’t ring that way for us because their idea of a lunch outing is basically freezing a human alive with no regard for their feelings or status as another living being. There’s definitely some parallels to be drawn here between the way Gololyod and her group treat humans and the way real-life humans have historically treated some animals in the past, which I don’t think is unintentional. I could easily see this exact script happening with say, a fox hunted for its pelt or a game bird killed for a dinner. A lot of the oneshot’s punch comes from that parallel, I think, and it definitely cements that there doesn’t need to be an explicit malicious intent to inflict suffering - all it takes is ignorance/apathy.

Overall, I thought this struck a really unique vibe that not a lot of fiction does - the effect of very blatantly holding up a mirror so we can see reality reflected back in a different way tends to strike a chord with me, and this one was very good at it. Also liked the general writing style and the intense casualness of it all, the lackadaisical nature of it really wove the entire piece together. Great work!

windskull

I think one of the biggest strengths of this fic is that it makes the pov feel very inhuman. It starts with Gololyod finding hail to be nice weather, and becomes even more apparent once she finds the human. There's also hints of pokemon culture mentioned, like when they're talking to the gallade. I do wonder if there could have been more sprinkled throughout, though I'm not sure if there was time to do so. Which brings me to a critique.

This story is pretty short, and is essentially a single scene. I found myself wishing there was more meat to it. More time spent with Gololyod and her daily routine to try understand this froslass' strange, inhuman behavior. Or, alternatively, to make her feel all the more inhuman.

In that same vein, the froslass are certainly villains in the eyes of the human, so I'd say this would definitely qualify as a villain pov. That said, as much as I loved the inhuman pov, it almost comes across as a wild animal behaving like a wild animal. Like this is just how froslass are.

One way you could alleviate this, I think, is to play up the horror elements through prose. There is a certain level of eeriness due to the pure nonchalance of the characters. Not just the two froslass, but the gallade, too. While the gallade does show a small degree of discomfort, even he is complacent in these human deaths. Going back to what I mentioned before about seeing more of Gololyod’s everyday life, I feel like if we’d seen more to normalize and sympathize with this character, it would have made the decision to kidnap humans for dawn stones all the more horrifying.

I think the main thing that makes me struggle with the debate over whether *I* would consider the character a villain, though, is the fact that the story implies that this is how dawn stones are made. That dawn stones require souls, and that they’re needed for these pokemon to grow up. It only occurred to me after the fact that they have alternate evolutions that wouldn’t require the stones. So perhaps working that choice to use dawn stones to become something *different* would help sell the villain point of view.

I didn't notice any spelling or grammar issues, so good job on that. However, at times I struggled to understand what was going on. I had to read the story twice before the horror of the situation sat in. Once it did, though… oh boy.

I think the end of the third paragraph was the most notable instance where I struggled. I think restructuring this section, possibly by breaking it into two paragraphs, would help.

Despite my long tangent on how to make this really feel like a villain story, I did enjoy reading this. I’m a sucker for nonstandard povs, something that this story does well, and once everything comes together, it paints a wonderfully chilling story.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"The Drawing Board" by K_S

Once upon a time, in the depths of the darkest tunnel of Dim Sun, there was a whiteboard. Purloined from the scientist labs, with a squeaky wheel and a perchance for listing. It wasn’t missed, and could be flipped. And so was.

One side it was rather mundane, boxes and lists, a schedule with a chart in different colors. No one knew what the chart meant, and it might have been some random ‘mon doodling, as it was more squiggle than anything.

It was one of the bases’ tamer mysteries...


Judge Comments

bluesidra

Hello! Oh, Ranger stuff! Haven’t seen that around too often! Nice to see it get some love. Seems like we’re witnessing the last days of a pretty dysfunctional Dim Sun cell. Oh boy, those poor bastards.

From my very surface level skim of the wiki, those guys don’t seem to be canon, so kudos on fleshing them out so well. At first I had my difficulties telling them apart because they were introduced in such quick succession. But after their backstories with the former evil team members, plus Ralph and his daughter, I had a somewhat solid grip on the named characters.

As for the atmosphere: It’s dark, cutthroat and cynic, and you convey that with both the characters and their actions as well as the narrative voice. With the happy-go-lucky protag roaming around in the background, I sometimes forget how okay with murder those guys are. But they remind me of it soon enough. I got to say, I like the way you handle the okay-ness of the characters with violence. To them it’s a means to an end, not something they particularly enjoy. But they have also become too desensitized to a lot of bullshit to really care about.

The value of life or having motivated employees is not held high in the statues of Dim Sun, it seems. They have a … questionable leadership philosophy, which can totally work irl. But why do they stay with the organization if they hate it so much? Sadly, the story doesn’t shine a light on why Dim Sun is their only option – maybe there’s a heavy bias against ex-criminal team members, maybe the region as a whole just sucks.

At least they have the self-preservation to ditch the group as soon as they see that their ship is sinking. A very reasonable decision, even if executed a bit desperately. I have to say that I couldn’t quite follow along with what their plans were in the first half – if I read it correctly, they were planning a routine heist which went wrong and so they got loaded on a van to an unknown location and got the bad news during the ride.

This confusion stems from my main complaint here: The run-on sentences. The narrative voice is really strong, and its use of slang, pokemon-metaphors and general breaking up of dialogue very much works in its favor there. But that also means that the reader will need time to process what’s going on in each sentence.

Now, dealing with this kind of quippy narration is "difficult" enough, but your sentences are incredibly long. And some start with one subject and end on a different one. General rule of thumb is to watch out for "and" between sentences. Often, it can be removed and leaves both halves stronger. Another tip is to keep a sentence to one topic/action at a time. (For example: A person moves a mug. Another person reacts to that movement.) If you’re having difficulties with run-ons, hemingway editor (https://hemingwayapp.com) will be a great friend and enemy at the same time. I’ve had the same issue when I started out, and it’s a lot of work to get out of the habit, but it’s worth it. Not saying that hemingway style is the non-plus-ultra in writing, but trimming sentences to better readability is a plus, no matter what school of writing.

Other than that, there’s a lot of potential here. The tone is appropriate and consistent, the characters, despite a bit too many to keep full track of, are fleshed out and diverse. The worldbuilding is interesting, especially in regards to the other teams. Also, Rangers! It’s always nice to see the view of the regular grunt and their problems, and those guys definitely have problems :D

Because people building ominous towers with lasers atop them and having a burning desire towards mining improbable things, and ignoring all the fun "basic things" like the ingredients to C4, were insane.

Truer words have never been spoken. But this is another example of a run-on sentence. Finding a way to cut them into two would improve readability a lot.

Which was why "Frank" was working the solo shift in ice-bound nowhere where he could snuggle the mind-controlled Sneasels and host ice cone parties to his heart content so long as he remembered to send a report and catch a new ice type every few weeks.

When it got to screaming so loud that Sal realized what was going on while driving outside, and Sal chimed in, screaming a "Oh Hell no!" when he realized what they were trying to remotely Shang-high him into doing, Chip finally lost it.

Two more examples of very long run-ons. They could be cut into two to three sentences easily and would be easier to follow.

the fanboying replacement Boss with unresolved tension of the not so pg 13 type

Lolololol! Exactly my headcanon, thank you for pointing it out!

SparklingEspeon

This is certainly… something. I wasn’t expecting the general comedy/absurdism vibe that I got during reading, but it definitely helped paint the tone and backdrop of the oneshot in a way that helped what actually happens in it stand out. There were definitely some silly things going on, from that one guy who’s apparently such a disaster everyone just sent him out into the wilderness to hypnotize sneasels and just Dim Sun’s plan in general.

Viewed from any sane perspective, Dim Sun’s plan here is pretty nuts, and their treatment of their grunts is even worse, apparently. Like, not just the standard “look the wrong way and you’re in for punishment”, but also grunt hazing by higher members? Yikes! The absurdism tone really helped paint this organization as a satire of all those other pokemon teams with similarly batshit plans, and getting that feel of “this place crazy” also helped to cement us in the pov of the people who are doing the grunt work and are really just here to get paid. This oneshot definitely captured what it was like to be at the bottom of these often insane schemes.

I also though the absurdity the whole way through struck a few funny chords - from the recurring thing about Ralph and his hypnotized sneasels to the drawing board that the oneshot is named after, there certainly wasn’t any lack of absurdist stuff going on to laugh at. There were definitely a few things that got me during my reading of it.

Themewise - Aside from all the pov characters being on an actual evil team, it feels like for the most part they’re just normal people. Which plays into the theme of the oneshot. It does feel like there’s a scale of “villain” here, though - obviously while these people are the best people in the actual oneshot, that’s defined more by Dim Sun just being cartoonishly terrible. They are definitely comfortable with being ruthless and working outside the law, and in any other story, would probably qualify as the villains. And indeed, most of them did come from previous evil teams…

All in all, I found this a pleasant and fun read! The recurring threads of absurdist humor provided a lot to latch onto while reading, and the ending where the grunts all go their separate ways felt pretty in step with what we’d seen before. I especially liked Chip just de facto taking all those sneasel along with him for his “”mono journey””, lol. Great work!

windskull

I have a lot of thoughts about this fic, and I’m sitting here trying to think about the best way to say them. It does keep in theme, and the bad guys are clearly bad guys. I like that it’s a story that focuses on the grunts of an evil team, which is one of the things I hoped to see going into judging. And when the jokes land, this fic can be genuinely funny.

But it also has some glaring issues. The first, and most objective of which, is that there were several typos, misspellings, and grammatical issues throughout the fic. I suggest having a second set of eyes look over your work for typos in the future.

The rest of my critiques are more subjective. I’ll address the big ones.

The first was pacing and narrative flow. I had a hard time following the story, for a variety of reasons. The above spag issues were part of it, but all the aside comments in the prose also muddied things. Additionally, there were a lot of instances where it felt like things just sort of suddenly happened. There were a lot of things that happened through the story, and they happened very fast. I think this story, to really reach potential, needs to either be expanded out into a novella, or have the entire opening sequence cut, and start from just before they all leave in the truck, fleshing that part of the story out.

The second issue is that I felt like there was a character bloat, and that a lot of the characters weren’t all that memorable. The only characters that I could remember anything about by the end were Feng, because being the Zubat guy was regularly brought up, Frank, for similar reasons but with Sneasel, and Ralph, because I remembered one line about having a kid. But otherwise, all the characters kind of bled together for me.

There are traits brought up—several of these guys are from previous teams, for example, but nothing is really done with those traits, aside from maybe one or two one-off jokes. And their dialog isn’t particularly distinct. And as a result, they kind of all blend together to where I couldn’t always tell who was talking, and what not.

All of that said, one thing I do think you did good, if it was your intention, is that you nailed the dysfunctional team dynamic. And that can be really fun to read at times. I can tell this story has potential! But it really needs a lot of polish to make it shine.
 

Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Eidolon" by AbraPunk

Rumors had spread that Eikris' Sentinel, the Eidolon of Bloodshed, had recently been seen atop the Windless Peaks. This sent a buzz throughout the region, as its guardian was notoriously reclusive, and had kept itself away from human contact for decades.

Some Trainers were bold enough to declare that they would journey to the Peaks, to see if they could catch a glimpse of the Sentinel. Others took it a step further, by saying that they would battle, and perhaps even catch, the region's guardian.

Dylan Caban was one such bold Trainer, one of many who would embark upon a trip to the Peaks. After failing the League, this would be his chance to redeem himself, to show that he deserved a second chance...


Read the rest on: Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

bluesidra

Ohoho, Gen9 preview, I see!

Nice, quick, painful little story. But, well, the content-warnings were there. However gruesome that final battle might have been, it’s always nice to have at least some sense of a happy ending – in this case for the remaining pokemon, who are clearly well trained and a good unit on their own.

And then of course the sentinel! Oh, what an awesome reveal!!! Admittedly, I pictured the mon in question to be living in a rainforest rather than on a snow-covered mountain, but dayum, it was so awesome! And the fight that ensued, though pretty short, showed clearly who’s in charge, without letting Dylan’s mons seem weak.

Dylan himself came across as an asshole through and through. I can imagine that, outside the story, he might have redeeming qualities to him, or something that would set his attitude into perspective, but like this? It’s like he’s using every single opportunity to make himself look bad.

I like the translators here quite a bit. They give a clearer interpretation of the mon’s thoughts (and Sceptile’s quips are just too fun to pass off!) However, since there’s this easy way of communication in this world, it makes Sceptile switching sides here come across as a bit too abrupt. He clearly seems to dislike his trainer long before that chance encounter with this other trainer and seems overall pretty confident in his ability to leave. Stevie and Alex couldn’t be the first decent people they met. So why now? Why didn’t he leave at any other time? Or ask Nurse Joy what to do if he doesn’t want to stay with his trainer? Normally, pokemon have this language barrier, and the fact that humans often misinterpret their body language to work against. But here, communication is pretty straight-forward.

Regardless, Dylan’s lack of emotional response to that incident just amassed him another truckload full of asshole-points!!!

The prose was good! There were no typos or repetitions that struck me. I especially liked the introductory paragraphs. From the description of the mythical sentinel that really set the stage for them to then zooming in on the rather mundane affairs of Dylan.

The pacing was rather fast at some points. As pointed out, the scene where Sceptile ditches his trainer could have used a bit more back and forth, and a dash of doubt in Sceptile if this decision was really the right one to make. The other stretch was the scene-change between the foot of the mountain and the peak. The transition here was rather fast and I had a hard time getting my head around the fact that the climate had changed now. Inserting one or two paragraphs dedicated to describing the peak – snow, wind, cold – is an easy fix here. Of course, the 2.8k are already pretty crisp, which is a welcome change of pace! But it also means that you can freely indulge in stuffing it out a bit more.

All in all, a very imaginative, quick and brutal little one-shot with an ending that leaves nothing open to interpretation or dubious feelings. And sometimes these clear-cut stories can be just as enjoyable as the morally gray ones.

SparklingEspeon

This seems to be a simple tale about a trainer who’s simply way too arrogant and cruel for his own good, and he definitely paid the price for it. It’s tried and by the books, but that isn’t a bad thing, necessarily - for what it wants to be, it definitely works out.

I do appreciate that right from the outset, we’re wasting exactly no time setting Dylan up as The Worst - he treats his grovyle callously, doesn’t take any responsibility for the pokemon who died back in the league, and scoffs at things like, y’know. Actually taking care of pokemon partners and respecting the guardian status of the pokemon he wants to capture. There’s definitely not any doubt that this guy is a bona-fide douchebag from the beginning, which works out pretty well because some people really just do be like that once they have an ounce of power and think they’re consequence-free.

I do think there were some things about the oneshot that felt a little arbitrary/went a little fast for my liking. For instance, Grovyle clearly isn’t pleased with Dylan as a trainer, and his decision to break away from the team seems to be fueled both by Alex treating his pokemon better and Dylan wanting to capture the Sentinel. But I guess what had me wondering was like, if it took this little for Grovyle to jump ship, why didn’t he just do it/have been shown to be considering it before? Was he just waiting for a good opportunity? Surely knowing his trainer, he must have known or at least suspected that Dylan wanted the Sentinel for keeps. And what about his other pokemon, where do they stand in this? While I can clearly see what drives Grovyle’s want to get away, I end up feeling like his actual decision wasn’t really sourced from there - he sort of just listens to Alex telling Dylan he’s a bad person and then is like “y’know this is true, I’m jumping ship”.

I also found myself thinking that maybe a bit more time to develop would have helped the theme bloom a little more - it’s clearly present in that well, Dylan is an asshole, but while I was reading I was thinking that it would have been nice to see him suffer a bit more on the way to the sentinal - Dylan strikes me as one of those people who thinks they’re on top of the world and then immediately collapses into a tyrannical child once they’re struck with a single hardship… and the journey ahead definitely has a lot of hardships. It would be really cool to see him actually go on more of that journey and show his true colors as he encounters setbacks - does he break down and slowly realize he’s powerless? Does he just make his pokemon take the fall until there’s no-one left? Does he power through without regards for anyone and end up alone at the end? We already know from the beginning segments that he’s an asshole on a power trip, but he could show us more of his true colors and who he actually is on the journey to get to the sentinel, so when the sentinel restates the main thesis, it hits much harder. Just some food for thought, though - YMMV as the author on how much it matters/works out for the premise.

Overall, good work! This story had a very simple and direct concept that you managed to get setup and executed in a pretty concise pagecount, which is an accomplishment on its own. Thanks for the read!

windskull

This is very much a “villain gets what’s coming to him” story. From the moment he opens his mouth, it’s clear that Dylan is not a good person. And everything he does continues to expand on that. At the same time, the way he acts makes it clear that he thinks of himself as the good guy. Everything that’s gone wrong is just everyone else’s fault, never his! Certainly not.

Though I have to say, I do feel bad for his pokemon. Yes, they agreed to fight for him, as the story makes it clear early on that they have the agency to leave if they really want to. But at the same time, the story also makes it clear they're not being treated well. And it makes their brutal deaths almost feel like they’re for shock value compared to Dylan’s own death, despite the fact that Koraidon seems more concerned with humans finding him than pokemon. I kind of wonder if the story would have benefited from making it clear that he would treat the pokemon as “traitors,” for lack of a better term, if they dared attack.

I didn’t notice any major issues with the prose. It wasn’t the most amazing I’ve ever seen, but it was perfectly fine. That said, there were a couple of spots where I noticed either syntax issues, or spots where the meaning was unclear. I’ve noted these below.

It caught one of her legs, and slammed her down upon a large jagged rock, which speared through her body as weak, gurgling cries rang out and she went still bathed in her own blood.
Here, there should be a comma between “still” and “bathed.” Additionally, I think this could have benefited from being broken into multiple sentences. It helps make the action feel “snappier.”

“You. You do not dare show contempt for your superiors.”
I feel like the idea that you’re trying to convey here is “How dare you show contempt.” But as-is, it’s a little hard to parse.

He found it, and soon enough, an Ultra Ball materialized in his open hand.
There’s technically nothing wrong with this sentence, but I feel like “and soon enough” is kind of a weak phrase. It makes it feel like it took a considerable amount of time for the ball to materialize. I think cutting that phrase out would benefit the scene.

I struggled a bit to keep attention at the opening. It gives a quick setup of what I assume the goal of the fic is - catching the Sentinel - and presents us with a character, but gives very little in the way of actual characterization of motivation until later. I wonder if there’s any way this could have been conveyed within the universe of the fic, instead of as exposition. That said, I did enjoy the fic once it got into the actual meat of the story.

In relation to the above, I did feel like the setup happened a little too fast, and I feel like in general, it needed a bit more leadup. Let us see how he got wind of the guardian. Let us see how he handled getting through the forest, etc.

All of that said, there were some neat worldbuilding ideas presented in the story. I do like the idea of pokemon translation devices. And the idea of “custom” translators feels like it was trying to convey something about our MC. Like he didn’t have a lot of money, maybe? Or else he didn’t really care about fancy stuff like that. I’d love to see those play into his motivation. And I think with a little polish, putting these ideas together with feedback, this could be a really neat story about a neat take on the pokemon world—and about someone who thinks himself shunned by it, but only has himself to blame.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Hunting Game" by Spiteful Murkrow

It’s sunset, as rays of light sink over the horizon and paint the desert and its sands brilliant hues of orange and red. The wind carries a nipping chill as the day’s heat begins to bleed away. It’s reminiscent of the sands around the ancient castle where the gods were said to sleep in Unova, the same desert you once called home as a little Trapinch.

The desert you’re currently in is in a land far away from there. “Hoh-wen”, you think you heard it called. It’s a land where many of the kinds of Pokémon there are strangers, and they speak in a tongue you can’t understand. But as you beat your wings and the wind rasps past them, it all melts away and for a moment, you feel like you’re back in your homeland.

You rest your wings briefly after a gust makes you shiver, the chill of the desert night is fast approaching. Along with it, you hear a familiar-sounding warble in the wind. Its tune is different, but its cadence is unmistakable: it’s a Flygon’s song just like yours.

So it
is more than just the desert that feels like home right now...

Read the rest on: AO3 | FFN | Bulbagarden | Serebii | Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

bluesidra

This is indeed an interesting point of view. A hunter struggling with how and who he hunts. I love this perspective a lot – Dali, a stranger in this land, and his connection to his trainer as well as his fellow pokemon, is surely a more unconventional one.

What they are doing – poaching, I assume – is clearly not okay and also very illegal, but from what is given, I can’t really fault Abe and Kato too much. They don’t seem to be bad to the bone. Dali’s view is a bit too unfamiliar with the human world to give a clearer reason as to how the humans ended up in the trade, sadly. Nor to explain how the economics here work. Why is there a market for sandslash and trapinch of all mons? (Well, okay, Dali seems to be a victim of that trade, too, so maybe the mons are given to "trainers" who evolve then to sell them?)

Dali’s voice is great: It’s so endearing to hear him talk about sawed off, serial number filed off shotguns, I could do this for hours. He has a certain naivete to him that I wouldn’t expect from someone who’s been through so many abusive humans. He is really hell-bent on pleasing, it seems. He’s not the brightest one, either, because humming his tune after he just massacred another flygon den was a bad idea, right from the moment Chase suggested it. But Dali was pretty oblivious until the very very end.

Though there is a little dissonance (?) between his relatively clear-cut image of hunting from the first half vs the insecurity he shows especially towards the trapinch in the second part. He seems to have his role as a hunter figured out, and is pretty realistic about the eat-or-be-eaten world he lives in. Which is why I don’t understand his complete inability to sort his own feelings out.

I get why he’d freeze up at the sight of the pinches – no one really has their fight-flight-freeze reflex in check. But encountering them seems to unsettle his self-image of a hunter, and that’s what I don’t quite get. From being a pinch himself he should know that there are predators out there that hunt them. And they aren’t his brood either. Other irl predators can be pretty harsh on other pups of their kind if they aren’t theirs, even if it’s only to eliminate future competition. So I kinda expected this behavior from Dali as well. (Then again, if you put a human hunter suddenly in front of a baby, they’d probably also have a few things to consider, even if humans are pretty high on the predator-ladder themselves.)

The worldbuilding – even filtered through Dali’s lenses – is a lot of fun. The descriptions of the inner workings of a pokeball are especially very interesting. It sounds cozy, and like a pretty intelligent machine, too. With the pokeball deciding when to put a mon into stasis – that seems like a good compromise.

Pace-wise, I feel like it dragged a little towards the end. Imo cutting it off after hearing the other flygon respond with a wailing to his first tune would have been more poignant.

But other than that it was a very interesting take on people (and their mons) who are usually one-off, faceless villains.

the same desert you once called home as a little Trapinch.

Excuse me, 2nd person? I’m all ears!

One so far away that you had to effectively relearn all the human that you’d picked up in Unova. Apparently human languages can differ from region to region much like they do for Pokémon.

Takes notes continuously

a metal tube with a wooden stock. He keeps it around to wound or scare off Pokémon in cases where one slips past Chase and tries to attack him directly. If it’s anything like Abe’s, its tube was cut down from a longer one, there’s a series of scratches next to a lever at the top where a set of human glyphs used to be, and it makes a gods-awful noise whenever it’s used.

That description is so awesome!

Whatever your counterparts back in the desert back in Unova might’ve said about how your hunting skills turned out, they’re exactly what Abe needs.

"Back" repeated twice

SparklingEspeon

This one was fun! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened a oneshot about a villain POV and saw that the main character was a trainer’s flygon, but this was a nice surprise anyway. Really liked the narration style, and all the little details like the ancient desert flygon traditions and the other pokemon in this story speaking different tongues being represented by actual different languages. It makes the story feel exotic and arcane in a way, which speaks to my reader sense a lot. I was really feeling that this was a flygon’s story and not a human’s, which gave it a unique lens.

The first thing that jumps out to me is the way that the flygon, the POV character in this story, functions. They definitely felt like a “flygon” and not a “human” POV, from their talk of migrating from the deserts they called home to the more humid lands of Hoenn, that they make songs with their wings that their human inexplicably doesn’t seem to appreciate for entertainment, the way they talk about being a predator, and so on. It creates for a narration viewpoint that’s very distinct from how a human would see things, but also walks the line nicely between being “nonhuman” and being “nonrelatable” - despite the fact that the flygon is a flygon and just wants to flygon, I still feel like I can relate to them as a character.

I also really liked the narration style - Second Person is one that I’ve only seen a fraction of stories handle, but it always has a very distinct vibe when it’s used. Here, I thought it made for a good balance where it distances us a little from a character that isn’t quite human, but still allows us to see their input and comments on everything. Although the climax of the oneshot is basically a raid on a trapinch den, everything leading up to it felt breezy and significant because we were seeing it through a lens that personalized it and gave it character. I do want to emphasize that I really liked the decision to separate us from the main POV, which I felt Second Person made a great choice for.

(I do also have to take a moment to mention the side characters, who, while not being the main focus here, did get some nice personalization and screentime that made them grow on me. They felt like people and not props, which I appreciate a lot.)

Themewise - I thought your take on the theme here was interesting because of how grey it was - to all the named characters in this story, the flygon isn’t really the villain even if they’ve upset them, but to the flygon mother out there they absolutely are. It’s all kind of grey and blurred and relative in the objective scale of things, but at the end of the story the flygon certainly feels like a villain from their perspective. The background implications that they work for illegal poachers also added another shade to it - though the flygon isn’t really cognizant of what happens to the pokemon after they leave they’re still ultimately contributing to something bad, and the effects of what they do don’t really hit home until it well, hits home. You can absolutely do something bad without being bad, and while the flygon is by no means a bonafide mustache twirling villain or anything, it’s the decision to be complicit with what they do at the very end that cements them as a “”villain”” Pov.

Overall, really liked this one! It felt like there was a good amount to chew on here, especially with regards to the theme and all the little details that make the story come alive. You did a really good job of dramatizing the events here, which did a lot for me on the reader side. Great work!

windskull

Shortly after I read this fic, I happened to watch one of the pokemon anime episodes that touched on pokemon poaching. Watching that episode really made me appreciate the fact that this fic feels grounded itself in the world of pokemon. It feels like a story that needs to be set in the pokemon world for it to make sense. And it takes bits and pieces of things that we know exist there, and expands on them.

For a villain PoV, I think it works. The characters are clearly in the wrong and doing bad things. But at the same time, it’s clear that the pokemon involved don’t see this the same way a human does. I like that Dali clearly isn’t thinking about their actions in the same way a human would. They’re just hunting like a predator would. They think of what they’re doing as a game. In some cases, I think that can cut into the “villain pov,” because they’re just an animal doing natural animal things. However, putting that together with the other characters, particularly the humans that know exactly what they’re doing, makes it work.

I also like that we get a clear path to explain how Dali ended up with Abe, and why they chose to stay with him.

I noticed you chose to use second person to write this fic, which is certainly a bold decision, considering how rarely-used it is. I think it works out well enough. I don’t know that it necessarily enhances the story, but it's written well enough that it doesn’t hinder it.

For the most part, the prose worked for me. It’s a fairly straightforward style that served it's purpose for the fic. That said, there were a few spots here and there I found awkward or clunky. I'll list a few examples below, with reasoning.

It’s a land where many of the kinds of Pokemon there are strangers,
This sentence comes across as a bit clunky. I think it’s specifically the second half of the sentence. I think you could cut out the word “there” and it would flow better.

While humans often go into the wilderness alongside their pokemon for travel or increasingly these days,
“Increasingly these days” feels like it’s an aside statement. I personally would have put a comma after or.

Abe’s voice cries out in the distance and snaps you back to attention when the afterimages in the sky blot out as a hand grasps down on the Pokeball and the real desert blurs.
I feel like this sentence would have been better broken up into one or two. As it is, it presents a lot of information without ever taking a mental pause. That said, there’s technically nothing wrong with it and this could just be a nitpick.

If it’s anything like Abe’s, its tube was cut down from a longer one, there’s a series of scratches next to a lever at the top where a set of human glyphs used to be, and it makes a gods-awful noise whenever it’s used.
This is another instance where I felt the sentence went longer than it should, except in this instance I think either there was a word missing to combine the sentence parts, or the comma between “one” and “there’s” was meant to be a period.

You hear the door to of his end off the pickup slam shut, then the engine starts up as it drives off.
I think you meant to have either one of “to” or “of” but not both.

While I had a lot of quotes that I picked at here, I think it’s notable that most of my critiques came from picking out weaker bits and pieces of prose. Because overall, I think that this is a really solid story that fits the themes of this contest really well. Excellent job.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Into Light" by canisaries
Third-Place Winner

“Looks steep,” huffed Vera, stopping to catch her breath.

Ken nodded. He could feel a bead of sweat slide down his forehead. “Yeah.”

The mossy forest floor rose and fell in waves around them, the largest hill straight ahead. A narrow path of dirt and dead needles slithered up the slope, tree roots peeking out of the earth each few steps.

Vera turned to Ken. A spot of sunlight illuminated her face, setting alight her golden hair in a brilliant glow. Her face was flushed from all the walking, but her blue eyes sparkled with determination.

“Bet the view’s gonna make up for it,” she said, smiling. Ken smiled back...


Read the rest on: Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

bluesidra

Oh, what a twist! The story of a ghost-hating conspiracy-theorist who is in denial about what happened to his wife. Let’s see…

First of all, Chip is really cute! I love the description of his body language, can’t ever get enough of adorable cat-dog creatures!

Then Ken. He is a very interesting character. You managed to paint him sympathetic, even though, especially in the beginning, there are the telltale signs of an unpleasant personality. But since he only ever interacts with Chip and a misdreavus without any dialogue, his erratic behavior fades into the background. A lot of his humanity comes from caring for Chip, obviously.

Vera and Ken’s final argument also felt very natural. I like how Vera, who’s been glorified and painted like this saint the entire time now acts like an actual human, swearing and being frustrated.

In some ways, he got off lightly, even though it feels different to the reader who’s stuck in his pov. I’ve half-anticipated Ribbontale revealing to be Vera’s ghost or something, but in the end, Ribbontale just being himself has far more impact. That way, Vera is still a lifeless skeleton at the bottom of the lake, and she’ll stay that way forever. If she actually came back, even as a ghost, it would alleviate some of the gravity of Ken’s actions.

I love the magic-worldbuilding in this. Though magic used by humans is not big in canon, in this piece, it feels absolutely natural. I had no problem whatsoever accepting it, probably because of the buildup of morning-prayer → ingredients for banishment → chip uses moves for the biggest heap of the work → incorporation of a pokemon deity in the banishment. These make it feel very grounded in the universe, as if this is something that a legit priest of Celebi might be doing on the daily. The description of how the banishment works was also very nice. It wasn’t overly dramatic, just leaves beginning to glow and the magic working its magic. Very lowkey, I like that.

I kinda wonder how the ghosts were able to retrieve the memories, though. Is Vera still there to tell the tale, or were they somehow etched into the environment? Or do trees and rock have a memory of their own and can communicate those to ghosts?

The writing is good. I especially love it when you break up sentences because another train of thought interrupted the narration. Turns out it works even in 3rd person. Sometimes, the start of the sentences are repetitive, especially "Ken" and "He." Going over it again, having it read out loud might help catch those. But other than that, the prose is just fine!

Very interesting, self-contained glimpse into the life of very real people and their problems, even if it revolves around ghosts and exorcisms.

SparklingEspeon

(Okay so I have to mention that because the character’s name was Ken, I was forced to imagine him as a barbie Ken doll the entire time, I’m not sorry)

This is definitely on the more grounded side of the entries, which allowed it to get into some more things that you couldn’t tackle as easily in a higher stakes setting. Really liked the genre and general subject matter here - it hit that slightly spooky vibe where the way everything is framed is Off and I was really here for it.

The psychological horror vibes here kicked in pretty quick, and the whole thing was giving me Secret Window Secret Garden/Shutter Island vibes from start to finish… especially at the end, when it was revealed that Ken actually killed his own wife and just managed to convince himself that it was the ghosts. So he’s kind of just been a PoS from the beginning. I really liked the way everything just seemed to have an order from a worldbuilding perspective - the ghosts don’t just run amok wherever, when a new tribe moves in it gets televised and interviewed and people are made aware. When Ken learns exorcism he doesn’t just pick up a book and do Magic, he studies it like a craft and obsessively buys talismans like guns. It feels a lot like a mundane reality with pokemon in it, which allows for that low-fantasy vibe that the story has.

There was also a really good setup at play here - there were definitely little hints and tells here and there that said something was wrong and that the whole narrative didn’t really make sense, but it didn’t come together until the very end when the reveal happened. The twist got me like a good psychhorror twist should, and it was a really good moment. That said, I dooo feel like the story went a bit fast for my tastes? I’m sure it’s probably because it’s not easy to tell something this large within 10,000 words or less, but I kinda came out feeling a bit like the whole second half was a bit rushed. It felt like everything from Fake!Vera and Chip leading him outside to the final talk with Ribbontail happened within ten or so minutes, which broke the stride a bit when the previous half had played out over days. Might be personal preference, but might also be something to think about?

Themewise - There is some interesting stuff going on. Ken is unquestionably a villain; he starts out pretty racist and later upgrades himself with the murder rank, and then pretty much winds up at the end as a racist, insane murderer. But at the same time, it’s grounded because he isn’t doing it just because lol ghosts bad, he’s clearly been very traumatized and needs some kind of help rather than to be left to his own devices. It can probably be argued that Ribbontail shares a bit of Villain Blame here too - I feel like forcibly altering someone’s memory is both cruel and also some kind of crime?? But I do like the effect it has - Ken went out and toyed with these creatures that weren’t human and that he didn’t understand, and he got what was coming to him, measured on an inhuman morality scale. Basically everything that happened to him was from his own actions.

Overall, really liked this one!

windskull

It’s interesting. While reading this story, I found myself going from, “Oh, he doesn’t seem too bad for a villain, wonder if that’s gonna change,” to “oh, okay, no I can see the villain pov,” to “oh no.” This fic does a great job of setting the main character up as just a regular guy that has some issues, who doesn’t see himself as the bad guy. Which is a type of villain archetype that I like to see.

In general, I liked the prose. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it served the story well. I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar issues, but there was a spot where it seems like there was a missing word or two. I’ve pointed them out along with a couple other prose-specific thoughts.

The wraiths limited their masquerade humans and the urban mon alongside them
I think there’s a word or two missing after “masquerade.” Either that, or there might be a wrong word used somewhere? Either way, I had trouble parsing this sentence.

Now that Chip’s aura was much less likely to scare away the wratih,
No big deal, and I know I do this too, but you don’t really need “much” here. It’s kind of a filter word, and doesn’t really add any to the meaning of the sentence.

”It’s always like this!” Vera shouted. “I dare to suggest a different point of view, and you just pounce on me immediately to correct that mistake!
So, the dialog in this and the next paragraph is the only part where I actually felt like the prose didn’t work. Something about it just feels kind of stilted. Not quite like real people. But I can’t quite place why. I’d recommend giving them a lookover before publishing publicly, if you choose to.

I think the biggest weakness of this fic is that it only tagently feels like a pokemon fic; without the umbreon, pretty much everything in this fic could be a completely original story. In general, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though it does come across as a little odd in a pokemon fanfic contest.

There’s one thing that’s brought up about halfway through the story that I think is worth bringing up earlier, and that’s the comment on how Vera only went missing, and that he didn’t see a body. Obviously, that’s not true, given the story's conclusion. But up until the point where “Vera” arrives, I’d been going off the assumption that he had seen the body. I think the story would benefit from addressing it earlier on, since otherwise it was hard for me to believe that this *might* be Vera.

I know there are a lot of critiques in this review, but ultimately, it’s a lot of small things that backdropped against something I think is really good. I genuinely enjoyed following along with the story. There were parts that were predictable, but not in a bad way. And the way it was written, I figured out what was going only just before things were actually revealed, which is good for this type of story. While I did feel this was a little odd and only tangentially a pokemon story, I think as a story in general, this is great. Your execution was on point. Wonderful job!
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Like You Belong" by kintsugi

“Can’t it be anyone else?”

“It has to be you.”

“… I know.”

Hayate rolls the conversation over in his mind as he approaches the back of the line. Remembering the harsh angles in Jaina’s voice is reassuring, in its own odd way. Her anger’s always smooth and frigid, but her determination sounds a little stilted, a little hesitant, like it shouldn’t fit inside of her small frame. She stutters when she’s certain; Hayate stutters all the time. So even if he’s fiddling with the pouch at his side nervously; even if he’s taking slow, halting steps up and keeping his head ducked down as low as he can without crouching; even if he’s wishing for nothing else than for the ground to swallow him whole—he can still be brave, just a little. Just enough...

Judge Comments

bluesidra

Okay, excuse me, that has no right to be this good?!?!?! (Also, looks like today I’m not in a good place to write reviews, everything makes me tear up and no critical thoughts come to mind whatsoever.)

But AAAAAAAAA! Hisui! Sinnoh! Jubilife! Ecruteak! H!Typhlosion! Tradition vs modernity vs pokemon rights! And not my own thoughts on these things for a change? AAAAAAA! I’m loving it!!!!

The description, as always, is great! I love your city descriptions. From the writing and the emphasis put on certain aspects though, Jubilife still seems to be a small town, even though sky-scrapers are mentioned, and the sprinkles of modernity in between are by far not as jarring as they could be.

The narrative voice fits an old person perfectly well. The many detours it takes and the details it gets stuck on, they feel a lot like an elderly shoving their rollator at a snail’s pace through a crowded, busy subway. And without all these details and background, the story would miss its mark, so I’m very thankful for that.

Then the story of the no-faced monster. It’s… novel! I adore how you guys can come up with these folk- and fairytales and make them feel so unique and imaginative. The tale is exactly what it set out to be – ambiguous. I couldn’t give you an interpretation of my own, except for that it’s awesome. But what I certainly wouldn’t have gotten from it was the interpretation that Hayate got to at the end.

Which brings me to the end, which was… pretty sad. But I guess it’s supposed to be about villains? It was certainly a choice made, but damn, I didn’t see that coming. (Wait, now I realize what that second thought about the two kinds of pacifism meant!) But also, like I said, it’s a choice made and no-one who really could have done any one thing different. It just all inevitably led up to this moment and that decision. It’s sad in a very calm, detached "well, that happened" way that you get when reading newspaper headlines about terrorist attacks.

Oh, also, I wanted to give a shout-out to your habit of keeping the species of pov a mystery. It took me quite some time to even realize that Hayate is not a mute, very shy human.

All in all, very cozy, atmospheric, sad story. 11/10, pls moar

SparklingEspeon

This one was interesting! I was expecting to see one or two PLA-based signups for this contest, but not quite like this… this one seems to fuse both the new lore from the ancient past of Sinnoh with the current, more familiar vibe that we know from the older generations. Which, given the game PLA was released near… feels appropriate.

I really liked your usage of history in the narrative to deepen the age and richness of it - Hayate is a typhlosion from the very old times of PLA, and it really shows. He feels like an old-timer, old enough to not fully have a grasp on how things now are working but able to remember farther back than probably anyone else in that convention. In particular I thought the erasage of history made for a really striking point. Those kids in the h-zoroark masks are just having fun and goofing off, for instance, but like far too many real-life events and holidays it’s really just a sanitized, commercial version of something that was much more terrible than modern culture would have you believe. As someone who got the short end of the stick, Hayate’s perspective rings true as well. His kind has been erased from Sinnoh culture, and everything he knows has either been scrubbed away from the history books or bastardized until it doesn’t even resemble what actually happened anymore. That pokemon don’t even have rights in this universe’s Sinnoh just seems like the cherry on top there, something that all that erasage was likely used as a means to accomplish. The running theme of the faceless monster story seems to play into that, especially as it’s missing from all the other sinnoh tales being told. It’s a piece of culture that just isn’t recognized anymore, but informs Hayate more than anything on display does.

I will admit it took me a couple of readovers to fully grasp the ending, but I think it finally makes sense to me - that Hayate couldn’t have just let himself be imprisoned in a pokeball and dragged away, especially not if he wanted to make an impression. It just didn’t make sense anymore to cling to the idea of a pacifist protest when that protest was being responded to with violence… so even if he had to paint himself as the villain in the process, it makes sense that he’d end up lashing out here - both in self defense and to make his forgotten kind seen again.

Overall, once the substance of the oneshot sat in, I found myself entranced by the deepness of it and the way you flawlessly interwove the threads of the old and new games together in a way that makes depressing sense. Great work!

windskull

I'll be honest, I had to sit and stew on this one for several days before I could work out my feelings on it. Initially I struggled with calling it a "villian pov." Up until the literal last page, it doesn’t feel like a villain pov, at all. And, in fact, a lot of his frustrations feel justified based on the way the narrative is presented.

That said, once I took a step back and it clicked that this was a villain origin story, everything fell into place. And revisiting it with that in mind, I find that it does a great job of accomplishing that feat.

In general I think the prose was pretty good. The use of present tense works for it, due to a combination of the way the story ends and the fact the story is, at its most basic explanation, an exploration of Hyate’s thought process and what makes him decide to take villainous actions. It makes it feel like it’s happening in real time.

I like the way the story slowly reveals things about Hyate. At first it sounds like there’s just something weird about him. Maybe he looks younger than he actually is, maybe there’s something else odd that makes people act disdainfully around him. But it’s made clear as the story progresses. And the way it’s done makes it clear that it’s intentional.

One thing I did struggle with, though, was understanding why the clerk let him in in the first place. I think the implication is that she did so just to keep him from holding up the line, but if there are procedures in place to keep pokemon from entering alone, I feel like she’d get in pretty deep trouble for this. It feels like she gives in a little too easily. I feel like it could either be made clear that she’s more concerned about getting people in than the rules, or there should be a bit more resistance.

That said, there were a couple spelling and grammar issues I wanted to notate, though none of them major.

even if he’s wishing for nothing else than for the ground to swallow him hole
*whole

”Erm,” she says placidly to Hayate, her smile stretched archly across her lips.
This sentence stuck out due in part to the use of two adverbs. There’s nothing wrong with that, per say, but I do think it would have been better to use just one or the other.

The enforcer’s confused, so Hayate pushes the card forward again,
I think there’s a word or two missing between enforcer’s and confused. Or possibly you’re contracting the word “enforcer” with “is?” If that’s the case, I would consider separating them, as it makes for an unclear reading and brought me out of the story while I tried to figure out what it meant.

Overall, I think this does a great job as a villain origin story, and I couldn’t help but find myself wanting to see where it goes next.
 

Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Nameless" by HelloYellow17

The first thing she knows is damp and darkness.

She cannot see, cannot hear, can only feel. As she crawls from her hatched shell, there is only one thought, one instinct in her mind: forward.

So she eats. She chews through soil, layer after layer, pushing her way upwards. She does not know where she is going, only that it is forward, forward, she must move forward. She must eat her way through the suffocating cocoon that surrounds her.

She has no sense of time, but her body tells her of its passage from the way that it begins to ache, to tire, to slow. Her limbs quiver, her lungs grow weary, she yearns for rest. But she must push onwards, she
must, or she will never break out of the soil. To stop is to give in to the dark and lonely damp, to rest is to admit defeat and succumb to death.

She will not give in. She will not succumb. She will not lose...


Read the rest on: Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

bluesidra

Oh man! And it started out so sweet…

Poor thing :( The abuse felt very real, and very long. Going into detail and repeating it over and over again really helped cement down how grinding it must have felt on Korrva. And to then learn that this wasn’t even the process of shadowfication itself. What more can I say? Pretty gruesome.

The fic’s style fits the tone and the mindset of the pov very well. Korrva is stubborn first and foremost, and the overabundance of repetition serves to underline that. 3rd present is a combination I rarely encounter, but it’s probably the best one for this (except 2nd present jk jk). It is detached and urgent at the same time, which fits the narrative voice.

The first part, needless to say, was suuuuuuper sweet. What a nice gang. Perfect composition, quag included. Mei is talking a lot to her pokemon, something that stuck out, but in a very good way.

And, of course, this entry gains 10 points on my imaginary rating scale just for featuring Morty and Gengar <3 and an additional 3 for making them actually come across as intimidating foes. For a moment I absolutely forgot that Bite is a dark-type and that ghost is weak to dark. And Olivine beach, my 3rd favorite beach in Johto! Oh man, I’d be so down for sightseeing with Mei and Korrva, if not… Man, that got really really dark…

SparklingEspeon

This is a surprising one! I didn’t know what to expect when I opened this one, but I wasn’t quite expecting anything like this.

The elephant in the room gimmick on this one is definitely the font changes that you employed - switching them up every time that a major event in Tyrranitar’s life occurred helped delineate the different sections of the story, and how different life was for her in each one. Every time there was a font change, I really did feel like life had changed for her in some significant, irreversible way, and while the fonts merely accentuated this instead of creating it, they did a good job of emphasizing it. In particular I liked how no matter what fonts you chose, the first three all looked “organic”/comforting, the kind of thing you’d see in a book or a well-designed website… but once Tyrannitar gets captured, it soon changes to this cold, sterilized, typewriter font as she slips further and further into shadow, and stays that way until the end. I think a lot of what gave this effect its power wasn’t just the change, but also that it seemed to reflect Tyrannitar’s mental state at the time. Really liked this detail, nice job!

Themewise - I do find myself wondering a bit about what this all means in relation to a villain POV here. I don’t really feel like Tyrannitar was a villain, persay, more a tragic victim than anything. The people who locked her up and subjected her to the shadowification process feel a lot more like the villains, though I suppose there is something to be said for Tyrannitar’s inclination towards violence that makes her more susceptible to the brainwashing. I feel like what might have made this more of an actual villain POV for me was if Tyrannitar had made a conscious choice to go down this path - as it stands, she definitely does end up indulging her violent tendencies, but it wasn’t really like she had a choice in the matter, and the process was obviously designed to bring out and take advantage of that. By the time she starts killing things, she’s half-broken and clearly didn’t go into it wanting to be the monster she ends up as by the end. She’s a victim being manipulated, not really someone who consciously made that choice to do terrible things. But maybe if, say, there was some point where she had an opportunity to escape and then decided that nope, she really just does enjoy getting to brutalize stuff and makes the choice to stay, or it was telegraphed a bit louder that on some personal level, she enjoyed using the experiments as an excuse to kill things, that would cement her as more of a villain even if she was brainwashed. I dunno, just some food for thought - In a vacuum, I can’t really say I had issues with the POV as it stands, so that’s also something to keep in mind. I don’t think there’s an actual issue with the story, just that it doesn’t super fit the mold of the theme to me.

Overall, I found this to be engaging - it’s definitely a thought-provoking piece of Poke-pov, and strikes a chord that’s very different from any of the other entries. You’ve done a great job, thanks for the read!

windskull

I loved the structure of the fic. The way each scene ended with an affirmation of who she currently is worked really well to tie the themes of the story together. And overall the prose was really good. That said, I did find a typo:

The woman’s face remains unchanged, but her tone warms ever since slightly.
Since should be “so.”

As a story, I think that this fic is wonderful. It’s a horrible tragedy. And man, I just feel so bad for Korrva. And for her trainer. I am curious whether the intention at the end was that she didn’t hold back against her old trainer and killed, or if it’s just someone that happened to be similar. Based on the themes of the story, I lean the former. I feel like you may have intentionally left it vague and open to reader interpretation. But if that wasn’t your goal, I would consider trying to make it a bit clearer.

All that said, I did kind of feel it fell flat as a villain PoV story. Let me start off by saying that I can see where you were going with this. Korrva (which is the name I’m going to use for the sake of simplicity) is a character that has a lot of traits that, if not given proper guidance, could turn her into something dangerous — which is what happens, to be fair. But as a villain story, the circumstances surrounding it didn’t work for me.

It could be argued that the villain PoV is of the cypher people that change Korrva, sure. But they’re not really the main focus, Korrva is. And Korrva feels less like a villain and more like a victimized animal, outside of going too far in the gym battle.

As I said above, Korrva has several traits that make it clear she needs firm guidance. But a lot of that comes back to animal survival instincts. Perhaps she’s more ruthless than other larvitar, but we don’t really get the opportunity to see that. And for much of what happens in the latter half of the story, it’s not really something she has a choice in. Fight, or go through horrible pain. She’s practically brainwashed. So while I feel like this is an amazing story standing on its own, it falls a little flat for me in the villain department.

There are things that could have alleviated this, I think. Focusing more on the Cypher perspective, or focusing perhaps on Korrva finding ways to compare it to the wild and what she would have done without their influence, as examples.

Even though I have a lot to say about how well the villain PoV is executed, I *did* enjoy the story. I loved the way it was written, and watching Korrva’s downward turn was heart-wrenching. It’s definitely something I would read again, and recommend to other people who want to read something tragic.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Negotiations With a Stranger" by Inkedust

Tap.

Tap.

Tap.

Echoed throughout the suffocating darkness. At its source, a great figure was slumped over a desk - like a puppet on a string - tapping the wooden surface with a claw. He would’ve blended in with his surroundings had it not been for his bright, blue eyes, one of them covered by a long, white mane that billowed in a nonexistent wind. Hatred bubbled within his core once his gaze settled. He could not stop narrowing his eyes into slits nor the small growl that escaped his throat.

Paperwork.

The figure heaved over with a sigh, reaching for a quill pen that glowed with the light of a dying ember...

Read the rest on: Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

bluesidra

Ooooh what a fascinating read! I know next to nothing about PMD, and this is still one of the coolest one-shots I’ve ever read.

Darkrai is very much a villain as they should be – self absorbed, paranoid, megalomaniac and out for world domination. Their viewpoint is a very amusing one to follow along with. Their quibble about the paperwork and how they are the only one who can do things right set the scene perfectly. Love it a lot.

But to me personally, the star of the show has yet to enter. The zoroark, the stranger as he’s called here, is clearly having a field trip here and it’s just plain fun to watch him chew the scenery. He’s very Master Mirror like, and I’ve loved that one from beginning to end. Love to see me a well executed devil in human form.

I especially love how the stranger played perfectly into Darkrai’s personality to get what he wanted. First, he exploited his boredom and aversion to defiance to get Darkrai to talk, then poked at his pride to get him to reveal his master-plan and in the end sowed just enough doubt that Darkrai would come running back to him, asking him for a deal.

Then the description of the lair and the relic, which, to a pmd-blind person, is very cool. This relic sounds scary to say the least. I had to laugh about the description of unspeakable suffering, to which the stranger was just like "yaaas, music in my ears!"

I have a very treasured head-canon about the stranger’s past that I’m not going to share because I don’t want it debunked. That’s how much I love it.

Very good, very very fun story. Love it a lot!

SparklingEspeon

Ah yes, Darkrai, the true master manipulator of the Explorers games and probably actually the most unquestionably evil PMD character… def a good choice for a villain POV. (this immense evil is expressed immediately in his love of paperwork, which is a soul-draining practice and should be banned everywhere)

In general I really liked the setup of this one - Darkrai, while an often used villain within the scope of PMD, really does feel like a good candidate for a brainpick, and the original addition of The Stranger provides just the perfect component to do that. The two villains are juxtaposed against each other as opposites from the beginning - Darkrai has designs on the entire world, but it’s coming from a very emotional place, and he might just not be as smart and cunning as he thinks he is. Meanwhile, The Stranger is methodical, knows exactly how much to let on, but more importantly isn’t out for some big evil grand scheme - he gets his kicks sewing little seeds of doubt here and there. I think having such an obviously smart and level character in the narrative helps signify how clearly volatile Darkrai is. Like, he’s just out here being all “I IMPRISON MY HENCHMEN in ETERNAL NIGHTMARES because they SPELLED MY NAME WRONG, GRAWR RAWR”, it’s no surprise that someone with an ounce of sanity can poke a thousand holes in his logic.

I also liked how the increased amount of noncanon lore affected the story here - while The Stranger is clearly a foreign element that wasn’t part of the canon, it’s also clear that this world isn’t the world of the games, and with that comes an uncertainty of what’s actually afoot that even people who’ve played the games can experience. And of course that culminates when we’re entering Darkrai’s Super Secret Dungeon Chambers and we see that he’s managed to punch holes into the Voidlands and even has a plan to wake Necrozma. Definitely a different change of pace from Explorers!

With regards to the theme - You immediately go straight for the jugular by not having one, but two antagonists just talking to each other and literally sharing their perspectives. While there’s not really too much complexity going on, the two different villains do bring out different aspects of villainy - Darkrai is that bumbling cartoony villain who flays his henchmen for no reason, while the Stranger somehow feels more malicious even when he isn’t lifting a finger. Towards the end, Darkrai even feels slightly scared of him, and I think that speaks to both the Stranger’s antagonistic presence and how he’s managed to get what he wanted without lifting a finger.

If there’s anything I’m not super jazzed on, though, I’ll admit that the oneshot did feel a tad incomplete. This is where introducing all those other elements such as the voidlands and the relics becomes a double-edged sword - while it does add intrigue, it’s also… not really central to the oneshot. They don’t really serve the story in any way except as something for the Stranger and Darkrai to argue over, so using things with such large implications for the plot ends up making it feel incomplete because the scope has been expanded so far it isn’t truly self-contained anymore. (some thoughts: maybe if we saw something like the outcome of this plan at the end, along with Darkrai recalling back to his discussion with the Stranger and then feeling cheated? That’s what immediately occurs to me in order to contain everything better without dramatically altering any elements.)

Overall, this was a fun piece! Every so often it’s just fun to watch two villains screech at each other, and this piece managed to do just that. Really liked the tension and intrigue injected in some places, and especially the way that you characterized the villains as opposites of each other during their conversation for contrast. Nice work on this one!


windskull

When it comes to villain PoV’s, you’ve got that nailed down. Although Explorer’s Darkrai can be used as a shortform for a villain, his behavior makes it clear that he is a villain. His actions and words show that he’s wrathful, boastful, and malevolent, and willing to do anything to get his way.

My only real critique is that I felt like it didn’t quite go far enough. He spends a significant portion of the fic making threats, and we’re told that he has lashed out at those that he feels wronged him in the past. But he never really acts on it within the fic itself. I almost kind of wish that his argument with the stranger at the climax had gotten physical, so as to make his words not feel empty.

The prose overall was pretty good. There was plenty of description to paint a picture for the reader. However, there were a few instances throughout the story where I felt things were almost over-described. Or places where the literary element (similes, metaphors, etc) used didn’t quite elevate the prose like I think you meant it to.

Additionally, I did find one notable spelling mistake, which I’ll point out in case you want to edit before publishing publicly.

vanishing with each passing strain, lead on by the scratches
*led

I kind of felt like the climax was a bit rushed. It felt like it was meant to be this big moment where Darkai has finally had enough, but instead it mostly just devolves into shouting. And as a result, it didn’t come across as tense as I think you meant it to be.

As I was reading, I also noticed that there were some comments within the story that made it feel like this is part of something bigger, like perhaps this is something you wrote to go along with your main fanfic, or something like that. What with the mention of Relics and whoever/whatever Kythra is. (On second reading, context clues suggest that Kythra might be what they call the world they live in? It’s not entirely clear.) As an addition to a greater story, this could be a really fun bonus! But when standing on its own, the addition of certain concepts that aren’t fully explored in the story can make it a bit confusing.

That said, there were some neat concepts that I did like. For example, the use of a nightmare cult as an explanation for why Darkrai has followers when you fight him in Dark Crater. And I got a huge kick out of imagining him hunched over a desk complaining about paperwork as if he’s not some nightmarish minor god. So, despite my critiques, there are some real diamonds in the rough in this fic.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"New Moon" by seatherny

“Why did you leave me?”

Again it was dusk. Again it was time for every visible thing to disintegrate. An impulse driven by panic, Alianna swallowed—as if her words needed to escape back into her throat to hide. Perhaps the night would spare her if she remained still.

Alianna scanned the varying terrain from her perch at the top of a steep, jagged crag. She had yet to break the habit of visiting this place, this monadnock settled within the arid steppe spanning the mountain which overlooked Rock Tunnel. Travelers en route to Lavender Town were not impressed by the ridges beyond, but Alianna could not help but feel comforted by the way it resembled a mass of carved bones placed in uneven rows.

She watched spearow and doduo forage for seeds in switchgrass growing at the edge of a salt flat, the gleam of which was slowly disappearing with the sweltering sun. The rest of the steppe was dominated by a mosaic of dying sagebrush and wildrye stretching to the flank of the mountain.

“Why did you leave me?” she asked again, once all hints of daylight had given way to petaled moonlight...


Read the rest on: Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

bluesidra

Oh, what a sweet, sad little story about moving on. Poor little Alianna, the baby Cubone, trying to process her mother’s death. The survivor’s guilt and the feeling of having failed her mother hits even harder seeing how kind the mother is. The lesson she gives her little one is a very powerful one, though. I like it a lot. Inspires kindness not by virtue of copying another person’s behaviour but by looking inside.

Aside from the content itself, I really like the prose here. It’s very poetic. You manage to breathe so much life into the quite unimaginative Rock Tunnel and the path leading to Lavender.

It is also a rather short story, but exactly as long as it needs to be to convey its message! Very well executed!


All right, I’m 100% here for the Twilight references.

Alianna hobbled, slowly but steadily, off of the monadnock and did not return.

These are not Twilight references!!! 😭

SparklingEspeon

Lavender Town Cubone… a surprising pick for a perspective! I guess for a villain POV story, the lavender town cubone does seem like they could make an interesting candidate.

I did like the vibe of Alianna looking up at the moon to hold a conversation and then watching it respond. Though it isn’t really touched on in the story, it feels a lot like it could be some aspect of unique cubone culture… or just that Alianna’s framed the moon as her comfort object and there isn’t really anyone talking to her. I also liked the way that you handled the prose - descriptive enough to evoke imagery that paints a vivid picture, but still swift enough that it doesn’t take more than a few sentences to do it. That kind of brevity is really hard to accomplish, and you’ve managed to strike a really good balance on it here.

In regards to this being/focused on a villain’s perspective, though, I do find myself a little muddled? Like, I get what it’s going for, and how it’s supposed to relate to the villain’s perspective (via Alianna’s mother explaining what their perspective was), but it didn’t really feel very central to the idea? The oneshot itself seemed more to me to be dealing with Alianna’s grief upon losing her mother and how she can move on from that, which is valid, but doesn’t really feel like a villain’s perspective to me. Something that could have made it moreso, I think, would be if Alianna had decided to choose a darker path/get revenge on her mother rather than choosing to try and move on from it in a healthy way. Which is less heartwarming! But I think it would have cemented more of a direct “villain” perspective here to chew on.

YMMV on that affecting the actual quality of the story, though; this is one of those weird cases where I think it was a good oneshot but just not too on the topic of the theme. Divorced from theme accuracy, though, I did enjoy it a lot - it went a little fast in places, but the overall theme was a good one, and the narration painted a vivid picture of Alianna’s actions and stress tics that helped sell her grief very well. Overall a nice oneshot, thanks for the read!

windskull

First, a disclaimer and apology that this review is short as I struggled to find things to say about this fic. As it stands, it is a wonderful short story. The prose itself is beautiful, and does a great job of setting the scene. I love the bits of description throughout the story. I did, however, wish there was a bit more body language during some of the longer, uninterrupted exchanges. But take this with a grain of salt, as I can see reasons why you might want those parts uninterrupted by body language.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really get villain vibes from the story. At most, Alianna has some implied traits—hate and anger at the humans that took her mother away, and the people and that world that did this, but we don’t really get to see those traits played out or used in a way that feels villainous. If the people that took her mom away are meant to be the villains, then in theory they should be the pov.

I would have liked to see more out of this entry, expanding perhaps upon what Alianna had been doing prior to this event, or an inkling that she wasn’t going to listen to her mom because she had too much hate.

Even if this didn’t really feel much like a villain story, I did really enjoy the concept, the themes, and the prose. *Especially* the prose. This is well-written, and it’s clear you’ve either got talent, you worked really hard, or both. So keep at it, because I’d love to read more of your works sometime.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"A Perfect World" by BestLizard

A Garchomp rushes up a coarse dune with a woman holding onto his back. Cuts and bruises smear over the human’s body and the lenses of her glasses are cracked. Her lab coat and the clothing beneath it are torn apart and soiled with dirt and blood. Underneath the dragon’s arm is a thick glass vial. Mew jiggles around in its fluid, balled up and whimpering. The Pokemon following her, which includes an Electrode and Pangoro, are in no better shape, with wounds ranging from sears to rocks digging into patches of skin.

The ground trembles and dislodges. The landshark falls on his front, dropping the tube. Far behind them, a colossal abomination of a Pokemon approaches them and each step shakes the ground. Its body is a grotesque collage of oversized parts belonging to a wide assortment of many Pokemon: eyes of different shapes and colours dot its body all over, ears and mouths are placed just as haphazardly. Its skin is a patchwork of scales, feathers, and fur, and each limb is a different shape with deformed bones jutting out of their ends serving as claws. Colossal wings hang off its back like they are stapled on.

Many dragon and flying pokemon swirl around it, breathing fire or clawing its expansive surface. Its arms flail around like its swatting flies while moves of many types spew from its countless slavering maws.

Between the giant and runaway party, Mewtwo soars across the sands at a pace faster than the monstrosity behind him. The ground dragon scrambles to pick himself and Mew up to sprint away, but his pace still loses them ground. The professor swears under her breath. Mew shakes and holds her eyes tightly shut...


Read the rest on: AO3 | FFN | Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

bluesidra

Well, that didn’t go according to plan, huh? *stares judgmentally at Mewtwo*

Well done, and an interesting, original concept here. Mewtwo really didn’t think this one through, it seems. Though I think it’s cruel that everyone had to die, including the creatures only built for destruction and Mew had to suffer through this, too – there was a petty little satisfaction seeing Mewtwo not getting his way. And I am once again reenforced in my hatred of Arceus, who, after not giving a fuck before, now has this suffering go in endless circles to – what? Teach Mewtwo a lesson? Arceus is really the master of making everyone they interact with regret it – in short a cruel god who needs to be cleansed from this wo– thanks, Volo, I’ll come back to you in a minute.

I’ll focus on the technical execution for this one a bit more, since I know you’re a relatively new author (but so am I, so heh!)

In my opinion, your prose has two modi – character interaction and landscape description – and they have a very stark contrast.

I love the landscape descriptions. They are vivid and diverse, as well as creative. They were what kept me engaged the most. The descriptions of the piles of bodies was a bit too over the top in my opinion – I doubt there would be a three layer high carpet of people in the streets, because where would they all come from? But honestly, there’s a lot of my personal preference speaking. Whenever it came to single corpses, I think you handled it with tact and respect – not going into every gruesome detail and instead letting Mewtwo’s reaction speak for it. You’ve also managed to evoke a good sense of the titanic size of the chimeras and arceus (especially arceus)! I love descriptions like these! Always blow my little goblin mind!

And then you have character action mode. It starts as soon as a character talks or does anything else than observe the scenery. In these sections, the prose is very simplistic and repetitive, especially with the first words. I know there’s a school out there that teaches to let character dialogue and action do the speaking, but a bit of mixing up or complexity doesn’t hurt. Especially outside of dialogue or action tags. I have a feeling you’re either knowingly or unknowingly holding yourself back there – especially because you know how to do varied sentence structures from what you’ve showed in the other sections. If you want to see what I’m talking about, look to any section where Mewtwo or a chimera does something and look how often a sentence either starts with "he," "him" or "his" (or, the "it" variations thereof.) Those sections could be peppered up by joining sentences together, prepositional clauses and sentences starting with a gerund.

As for pacing: I personally felt like the story dragged a little when the two were wandering from nameless city to nameless city not to find anything new, but this might be in accordance with what the characters felt. Still, I think it would resonate better with the readers if there were landmarks one could recognise, like the amusement park in Nimbasa or the crater of Sootopolis. With your knack for landscape description, you’d surely be able to paint very gruesome and creative sceneries.

As for spelling: Like I said, I’m not a native speaker and rely mostly on my spellchecker for any regional differences. In my experience, you don’t need to worry too much about regional variants. I’ve had the odd comment if I used a british english word before, but only in the sense of "oh, this is an actual english word!" The only thing that stuck out to me was, that you wrote "chrimera" instead of "chimera" on a few occasions.

So, that was a very lengthy, technical review, and I hope I’m not making it sound super bad, because it isn’t. The story has its strong points, and I very much enjoyed the read, especially the landscapes, omg they were so cool!

The writing is Canadian English, which is an unusual combination of British spellings but a few American spellings and largely American terminology. (I am saying this so I will not have points docked for spelling :I)

Nah, don’t worry. I’m not even native english, my pc’s local spellcheck is british english while google is in american english. I have accepted the madness.

eyes of different shapes and colours dot its body all over, ears and mouths are placed just as haphazardly. Its skin is a patchwork of scales, feathers, and fur, and each limb is a different shape with deformed bones jutting out of their ends serving as claws. Colossal wings hang off its back like they are stapled on.

:big_eyes: a gibbering mouther in pokemon!!!

Garchomp rears his wing for dragon claw, but he can’t swing. His whole body is locked up in an invisible energy. A snapping sound in his neck rings out and he goes limp. The Pangoro falls silent, eternally resting face down.

Wait, what happened to Pangoro? I thought this was about Garchomp.

Many lying corpses pile up, but none move.

Oh thanks gods, no zombies. Yet.

He designed one of the chrimeras to acidify the world’s water to make easy work of water-types and now that acid is brought into the sky as he expects for it’ll clean up anybody his children missed.

This sentence is in dire need of a break.

"We’ll find you a doctor. You’ll be healed." Mewtwo says

Listen, discount Cyrus: Just a second ago you were bragging how efficiently you erased all doctors and other creatures off the world, so I doubt you’ll be successful.

A giant, white, four-legged Pokemon watches down on him from beyond the atmosphere the entire time.

:big_eyes: Well well well, if that isn’t the judgemental inactive bitch again…

Its skeleton remains standing without its arm, appearing hunched over. Its bones twist and melt into each other making a convoluted mess that suspends chunks of meat and flesh. Melted eyes stretch down from ribs, its only distinguishable body parts.

Little nitpick here, but if it’s only a skeleton nausicaa-style, then there wouldn’t be eyes and stuff.

No more life can be made.

This world has ended.

I am here to reclaim it.

Ah, yes, the divine janitor…

SparklingEspeon

This one was harrowing. There seems to be some definite The First Movie inspiration from this striking tale about a mewtwo trying to survive in the ruined world he created, and you definitely haven’t shied away from taking that premise to its bleak endpoint. What if Mewtwo succeeded? What would remaking the world even look like? The answers to these questions are given, but at the cost of wondering if they were worth asking.

There’s nothing too complicated going on plotwise once Mew is injured, but that works out pretty well, all things considered. The majority of the oneshot is geared towards painting a picture of all the devastation and destruction that Mewtwo’s actions created, which takes advantage of the setup you’ve created here in the strongest possible way. I thought directing focus onto this made for a really striking and bleak picture, especially when juxtaposed with Mewtwo’s plight. Mewtwo needs help, just like everyone else, and his search for it only forces him to face all the destruction and the fact that there may be no more help out there. I also appreciated that you knew when not to go too far into describing things, such as the moment with the face-down audino. In general you made good use of letting imagination fill in the blanks for details, rather than painting gory descriptions of literally every drooping bush and dead body.

All of the environmental description also painted the way for some nice quiet moments - I enjoyed the frequent mentions of Mewtwo’s dwindling supplies and how he tries to care for Mew up until the end, as well as his denial that there wasn’t any help left to find that only got stronger the more apparent it became. The biggest one was the moment in the ruined building when he talked with her about the time they first met, which I thought was a really good scene.

On that note, though, I did think the ending was oddly ambiguous. After pleading for some kind of mercy from Arceus, Mewtwo awakes back in that tank in a clear reference to the first time he met Mew. I wasn’t really sure what the implication was supposed to be, or if the reader was meant to draw their own conclusion - if I had to draw a conclusion, I would probably guess that Mewtwo was being given a chance to do things over somehow, but there’s room open for other interpretations too. Are these his dying hallucinations? Is it some kind of prison or time loop he’s trapped in? Did he just get reset, but with circumstances different enough that he wouldn’t be able to destroy everything again? If your intent wasn’t to leave it open-ended, I think it might be worth a brief revisit to flesh out exactly what happened here.

I did also notice some odd stuff going on with SPaG here and there. There were some strange misspellings, and in places the sentence syntax felt off or entire words just didn’t make sense where they were placed. These were all minor, and feel like the kind of thing that I would miss if I went over it for edit session number 3,468 on a deadline, but they occurred semi-frequently throughout the oneshot and stood out as odd when everything else was so polished. This is another area I might look into giving some attention if you decide to clean it up a bit.

Themewise - I thought this was a very striking take on the theme. Mewtwo is, unquestionably, a villain, but his villainy was at least partially founded in naivety and ignorance. He destroyed the world believing that he could just. Rebuild it afterwards, but things just don’t work like that, and when it all starts going wrong he’s up the acid creek without a paddle. And at that point he’s just like everyone else, trying to survive in a world with its days harshly numbered. The theme is expressed not in Mewtwo showing his perspective as he tries to accomplish his goals, but in him succeeding and learning what accomplishing his goals actually means. It transforms something as simple and cartoony as his evil master plan from The First Movie into an image that has a way of sticking around even post-reading.

Overall, I really liked what you had going on here! This felt a lot like a silent horror film in a way, and the narration style/direction really stuck with me as I read through. Great job!

windskull

You've definitely captured the vibe of a villain that recognizes that there are problems with what they're doing, but feels that their reasons are justified. It feels like, as he goes on his journey to save Mew's life, he slowly starts to realize how horrible the damage he'd done was.

I kind of like the way Mewtwo's motivation is revealed. Early in the fic I had assumed it was a matter of revenge. But as the story progresses, it becomes clear that it was more than that. The only real issue is that it didn't quite "click" for me until Mewtwo spells it out. The way the transition unfolds is not a bad thing. Especially since the opening follows the nameless professor, who might not understand Mewtwo's motives. But I think the transition could be just a bit smoother.

For the most part, I think the prose was good. However, I did see a couple of spots with spelling or grammar mistakes, which I'll note below in case you want to fix them if/when you post publicly.

And they must be a professor They must be…
Missing period between professor and They.

The branding of the criminal theam
*team.

One thing I think you could have improved on prose-wise was the description of the chimera. Maybe that wasn’t your intent since, while Mewtwo may not view the chimera’s as horrible, ugly monsters, the prose sort of presents them that way. But as it was, it felt like you were trying to push the creepy factor, but it just needed a bit more. If that's the case, I highly recommend looking into horror books that touch on body horror and researching how these books describe their monsters.

The use of present tense caught me by surprise. But I don't think it was a bad thing. In fact, I think it works to strengthen the narrative, especially with the ending in mind.

Speaking of the ending, though, it wasn't clear to me whether it was meant to be a memory, a reboot of their universe, or a reveal that it was all a dream. While I think the intention might have been to leave it up to reader interpretation, I would consider rewording it to make it a bit more clear that it wasn't a dream at least, since I feel that kind of detracts from the story as a whole.

But in general I think this was a pretty good story about a horrendous tragedy, and about a villain that accomplishes their goals, only for it to lead to their own personal tragedy that they can’t come back from.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"The Problem of the Pidove" by The Walrein

“And so we’re resolved! The color scheme for our new ‘Don’t Wait – Liberate!’ posters will be white with gold trim!” Sage Gorm announced. He and four other members of the Seven Sages were gathered around a table deep within the bowels of Plasma Castle. A broken wall clock declared that the time was eternally 4:59 P.M. Loose papers were scattered everywhere, the corners of top-secret documents poking out from underneath memos breaking down the daily paperclip allotment to team members by rank.

“Excuse me, honorable Sage Gorm, but I have a question: Will the white be a sort of vanilla-white, or would it be more like a beige-white?” Sage Giallo asked.

Gorm nodded thoughtfully. “An excellent question, noble Sage Giallo! Consider the matter re-opened for discussion!”

On the opposite end of the table, Ghetsis’ head slumped another few degrees towards the horizontal. A few hours ago, Ghetsis might’ve suggested that the Sages delegate away any poster graphic design details, but he was still exhausted from his efforts convincing Gorm that he didn’t need to include a detailed description of last meeting’s minutes reading in
this meeting’s minutes reading, narrowly averting an infinite regress...

Read the rest on: Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

bluesidra

Oh my god lolololol! I currently have a plaster near my mouth, and if I laugh too hard, it comes off, so boy, was this a hard read for me.

Yes, it’s hard being the leader of an evil team when you’re working with idiots and idiots exclusively. And if you also recruit from an old people’s home.

At least now we know where the idea for a freaking air frigate came from. And Team Plasma has won another supporter in a very content braviary.

Don’t know what else to say. Good story, very good laugh. Keep it up :D

"Do you have any ninja missions for me? I’m bored!"

Ghetsis and his children, omg!!!

Gorm gave an approving nod. "A prudent idea! All in favor of allocating funds for airship research on our next yearly budget, say aye!"

Ghetsis sat up, alarmed. "Hold on, where is this money going to come from? I’d imagine such a research project would be quite expensive, assuming it’s even possible to create cheap ‘air frigates’."

omg. lololololol.

"I… ah… does anyone recall where leather comes from?" Giallo asked. "Perhaps we could use that."

I’m rather sus about this…

"Leather, eh?" Ryoku said, awakening. "Yes, that’s the ticket! Hide those Pidove! Hide and tan ‘em, I say!"

There’s an imposter among us…

"I’ve decided to update my image to better appeal to the youths of today’s society! I mean, to the youthzzzzz!" Sage Rood said. "I’m afraid that a bunch of old men in robes simply aren’t inspiring enough to muster the number of young activists we need to liberate Pokemon! So Sage Rude is here to add some pizazzzzz, yo!"

Little did he understand that they already have N on their team, so they cover the hipster demographic very well.

SparklingEspeon

“Yes, quite right! All in favor of defunding the Genesect project to fund airship research, say aye!”

Okay so I reached this bit and my brain just said:
Genesect 20%
Posters 25%
Airships 360%
Other things 15%

“Help me budget this my [genesect] is dying”
“Spend less on airships”
“@ghetsis no”

So yeah, this entire thing was really silly from beginning to end and I was here for it. Team Plasma here feels like one of those corporation boards that might exist in a skit or something (really, this whole oneshot feels right out of a skit), from the insistence on what specific shade of white all the posters should be to Sage Rood/Rude trying to make a terribly ill-advised campaign to the “younger demographic” (shilling NFTs with no idea of what they even are, just, terrible). If I were Ghetsis I would probably be very tempted to pull off some hits too, this is just Too Much Headache when you have designs on region domination.

I was pretty much ready to cackle when after all the absurd arguing, Ghetsis just turned around and came up with a smart but terrible solution to their “pidove problem” (which is actually such a non-problem I’m surprised he didn’t cut the cord sooner). I guess it works? The whole thing was a riot from beginning to end, definitely ranks up there on the funny scale, and the sages’ complete obliviousness - quite literally jumping hoops just to come up with progressively insane explanations (that rely on chekov’s guns!) rather than connecting the obvious dots - really helps sell the ending. Grade A humor.

Themewise - the whole thing is kinda absurd and also kinda technically from the villains’ perspective with regards to every character being in Team Plasma, though you could argue the actual antagonist here is the collective idiocy of every person in this room except for Ghetsis, and that’s what truly carries the oneshot tbh. Which I guess also kind of translates to having “”the villain’s perspective””, because this whole oneshot is just them sharing their literal perspective on how to solve a problem that really should not be a problem in the first place. It’s a very on-the-nose (and possibly… unintentional, I may be reading way too into this) interpretation of theme, but just like the oneshot, it’s cheeky enough I have to give it points anyway.

Overall, I had fun with this one - there were definitely a lot of laughs in store throughout, and I found the entire thing to a delightful piece of absurdism. Thanks for the read!

windskull

Not gonna lie, I’m kinda glad to see a comedy fic. This story is—in the best way possible—a wonderful, chaotic disaster. Everything comes together to paint Team Plasma as a dysfunctional mess as Ghetsis tries (and mostly fails) to use for his plans. But what’s his alternatives, huh? While I’m struggling to find things to say about this story, it is definitely memorable and a fun experience.

Ghetsis works well as a villain pov surrounded by a bunch of idiots. And to be fair, he’s clearly trying to pull the wool over the eyes of everyone else. I don’t know that I’d say it does anything new or unusual with the pov. But it works in service of the story. The point here is that Ghetsis is a classic, at least somewhat competent villain, but he can’t get anything done because everyone else is just so dumb.

I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar issues, so good job there! I didn’t have anything notable to say about the prose, but, like the villain pov, it works well in service of the story and its tone.

I did cringe a bit at the ending, but not in a bad way. More in an “oh oof those poor pidove” way. And it does play into both Ghetsis’ willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals, as well as the incompetence of the rest of Team Plasma.

As I wrap this review up, I feel like the only issue I have is that I’m struggling to think of anything specific to focus on. The story is pretty much one big comedy routine and the jokes all land fairly well, but I’m struggling to find anything specific to focus on. On the flip side of that, I’m also not really finding anything to critique. All in all, I had a lot of fun reading this fic and found myself snickering throughout the entire thing. It’s a nice breath of fresh air when a lot of what I read is much more serious. I would definitely recommend this fic to a friend.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Rebirth" by Seren

“Alright, listen up!” the mission leader bellowed, his voice echoing loudly in the silence against the walls of Mt. Moon. “You all know why we’re here, and here’s how it’s going to work. We march in from the east, lock down the city, and interrogate everyone. Everyone. We must succeed, for the team’s sake! For the sake of pokémon everywhere! Our future depends on our success!”

Instead of a rallying cheer, the only sound that followed was the dropping of water deep in the cave. They all knew the insanity of what was being proposed here. And yet… they’d done the unthinkable, and succeeded once before. They could do it again. They had to.

Among the assembled grunts, the voice of one girl suddenly rang out. “But sir,” she said, voice authoritative as she stepped forward and lowered her somewhat uncomfortable hood so her long flowing natural red hair could breathe. From the corner of her eye, she saw Doug looking her way, as if warning her to shut her mouth. She pretended not to notice. “We have only rumors. There’s no proof that this old guy has, or has
ever had, the feather. We don’t know if he still lives here, or even if he’s still alive!”

Judge Comments

bluesidra

Oooh, Team Plasma meets Johto. I’m all ears!

First of all, kudos on squeezing what could be an entire DLC worth of content in Johto into 7k. A lot of things are happening. Quite unusual for a one-shot and I’m still at a loss at how you did it, but you did very well!

Second: JOHTO!!!! Omg, I love it so much! And a significant portion of the wordcount in ecruteak, too? Perfect!

I greatly enjoyed following the entire plan along and revisiting a lot of sites connected to the rainbow wing, as the fetchquest-y nature of the summoning-ritual is often ignored when it comes to Ho-oh.

However, there are two time-skips in the story that I think works against it. FIrst, when Yza and the champions form their plan, and then when they manage to subdue Ho-oh. I would have liked to see Yza struggling a bit more with her decision. And then of course a half-soulless Ho-oh that decimates Ecruteak. I have been betrayed. The timeskips do work in building up tension, as the following scenes really draw out the moment when the reader’s guesses are confirmed. But weighing tension vs a deeper dive, I think the deeper dive would have been a little bit more satisfying.

What does work, however, are the characterisations. Despite being so minimal, it’s always clear who’s who. Especially Ethan and Hilbert are very different, even though male protagonists tend to blend into each other quite a lot. Yza too is an interesting case. For a plasma member who is clearly convinced of their goals, she is surprisingly distant from "her" pokemon. She always asserts ownership over them and doesn’t even recognise her own umbreon on several occasions.

All in all, a very enjoyable story with a lot of nostalgia throwbacks to my favorite region.

Yza was silent, angry, unable to form a coherent thought, let alone verbalize one.

My current writing process

Their next mission was to infiltrate the library in Ecruteak, looking for information on how to summon Ho-Oh.

I can only imagine a group of shady figures covertly filing for a library pass… Not unlike aqua/magma when they civilly visited the museum.

The dancers were apparently an important part of the summoning ritual, and were required in order to make Ho-Oh revive, together with the Rainbow Wing. Yza had yet to figure out how that worked

Me too, sis.

Yza glared back at him, feeling annoyingly pathetic and soggy, dripping all over from the vaporeon’s attack. She glanced down to make sure her Team Plasma uniform wasn’t see-through.

First: Vaporeon so cute! Second: #Relatable

I thought you knew how to be a leader. But look at how this mission has gone so far! Everything we’ve accomplished has been, ultimately, through me!

Oh, my guy. Accomplishment alone will not get you in a prestigious position. You’re trying to show how unfair the world is, you should know.

Hilbert shrugged. "Fine, do whatever you want. I just figured you’d want to start this ritual before that nasty looking storm gets here and makes all that ash soggy. Good luck reviving it then."

Ooooooohhhhh ho-ohohohooooo!

My failure in Unova taught me one important lesson. I can not rely on other living beings with minds of their own to do my work for me.

Hello there, Cyrus

SparklingEspeon

This is definitely a fun perspective for a Team Plasma fic… I’m not entirely sure what’s going on (it probably helps that I didn’t play black/white or the sequels, eheh), but it’s interesting to watch nonetheless! I’m guessing a lot of this isn’t actually canon outside of the general idea of Plasma’s rise and Ghetsis’ return, given that we go to regions like Kanto and Johto and deal primarily there rather in Unova.

The flow of the oneshot read pretty well to me - though it’s on the longer side, I liked that the rather than having 13 or 14 smaller scenes that covered distance more efficiently, we were sticking with fewer scenes but mostly larger scenes. That design choice did a lot for the story, I think; it helped slow the pace down rather than keeping it going at the speed of light, and let each scene dig a lot deeper into the substance of the oneshot rather than just getting stuff done and moving on. And despite the lower number of scenes, the oneshot did cover a lot! I know it’s a small thing to harp on in the scheme of things, but it’s not something I see too often done with oneshots that cover a massive amount of material, and as a story structure gremlin this bit stuck out to me in particular.

I’ll hop right onto theme for this one, because it’s expressed pretty thoroughly here and is tied inherently to Yza, our protagonist. I think you did a pretty good job of showing how her perspective slowly changed over the course of the fic - I don’t think she was ever super okay with the kinds of violent activities that her team got up to, and it’s that hesitance to fully fall into the groupthink the rest of the team seems to have going that leaves her open to Ethan’s words when they corner him in his house. In particular I thought that the vision of her umbreon suffering like Ethan’s did was a really vivid and strong image, and it’s the kind of thing that would make me believe that she would have a change of heart after loyally following this group for years. From there, she slowly begins to see the organization she works in for what it really is, culminating in her eventually turning on them at the end.

But I also felt there was a bit more of an extrapolation on the theme that I really liked - though we do get Yza’s perspective, we also see the perspectives of the rest of her squadron, and not all of them are as convinced as she is. Doug makes himself out to be the “villain” here - he’s always been more ready to do the ruthless things the team needs to do in order to get what they want, and the way that he and Yza differ is made pretty clear: Yza genuinely thinks the team’s goal can be accomplished ideally and hopefully, Doug leans full into the violent reality of that idea. That comes to a head when Doug accuses her of treachery when she expresses horror over his violent tactics, and while Yza retains control over the situation, the clear difference between her reality and the rest of the team’s eventually culminates in her backstabbing Ghetsis at the most crucial moment and rounding out her character arc. The differences between her and Doug are even something that she ruminates over after everything is said and done. The dual perspectives here really helped emphasize the difference between Yza’s path and the rest of Plasma’s, and I thought it was a really good addition - it both deepens the conflict and themes of the oneshot in a way that stuck.

Overall, I thought this was a really well-done and compact piece of work! For the amount of events and substance portrayed, you did a really good job at fitting it in such a small package and still executing it well (if it were me this would be like 14K and still going, aha). Great job, and thanks for the read!

windskull

Seeing events through the eyes of a grunt, and seeing how they handled a mismatch of ideas with their organization, is definitely a couple of ideas that I wanted to see played with in this contest. And this fic does a good job of that, even if I think it strays a bit too far into anti-hero territory by the end of the fic. We see that [name] really and honestly believes in the ideals that Team Plasma claims to stand for, but struggles when the truth comes to light.

I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar issues, but I did have some problems with the prose. I noticed a lot of use of “filler” words like had, that sometimes made the actions feel distant and started to lean into telling territory. Let me share the most notable example I noticed, and then show a way I would correct it, and why.

It had taken almost an hour before Pewter’s police force had mobilized and begun to round up the team. In that time, Pewter’s gym leader, Brock, had taken down nearly half of them on his own. The defeated grunts had retreated to avoid being captured. The ones who ended up getting captured the quickest were those who had no pokémon to defend themselves with. They were only here to be interrogators, but they were easy pickings for the armed officers and their trained growlithe.
Throughout this paragraph, “had” is used again and again—five times in four sentences—and it makes things feel distant and sort of “glossed over,” which is an issue I saw several times throughout the story. Many of these “had”s could be removed with only a slight tense change of other words in the sentence, which make things feel more “in the moment.”

It took almost an hour before Pewter’s police force mobilized and began rounding up the team. In that time, Pewter’s gym leader, Brock, took down nearly half of them on his own. The defeated grunts retreated to avoid being captured, but the ones who ended up getting captured the quickest were those who had no pokemon to defend themselves with.
With this edit, I’ve removed all but one “had,” which was necessary without completely restructuring the sentence, and I combined two sentences with a “but” to improve flow.

Additionally, while I won’t be going in depth on them like I did the above since it was the most notable prose issue, be careful of overusing “to be” verbs and weak adverbs—adverbs that do little to modify the action (I.E. “She smiled happily” is weaker than “she smiled sadly” as smiles are typically expected to be happy, while “sadly” modifies the meaning).

I really enjoyed the all out brawl of a battle in the dance house. You do a great job of getting across the chaos of the moment. Which makes me sad that I felt most of the other battles felt kind of stilted and glossed over. And, in fact, whatever happened with Ho-Oh is completely skipped over! Like, we get a bunch of buildup to the summing of Ho-Oh itself, but then we never really get to see that climatic showdown. Maybe you felt it wasn’t necessary since it had less to do with Yza herself, but the entire fic felt like it was building up to that confrontation, so to have it completely skipped over felt unsatisfying. Perhaps it was a matter of being cut for time, as well, but if not, you still had about 2.5k words to work with before hitting the word cap for the contest.

And I think that’s my biggest critique with this story. It has a wonderful idea! And I really enjoyed what’s there! But in the end, I just felt like too much was glossed over, and I couldn’t help but feel like it held the story back from being great instead of just good, in the end.
 

Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Rouge Planet" by Commander Mercury

It was odd seeing Veilstone so empty. On any other night the city would’ve buzzed, a veritable hive of people and Pokémon from all walks of life coming out to enjoy themselves. This night, however, was anything but normal. Traffic lights blinked yellow at cars that never came, the babble of nightlife replaced by faint Kricketune song from the forests beyond. Even the Game Corner sat quiet, a neon island bereft of the glassy-eyed castaways it called patrons. Everyone was at home, safe under their own roofs, hiding from the sky. Silently fearing the next time it might go multicolored.

It had been little over forty-eight hours since that dark moment had occurred. For the lonely man walking the deserted streets, however, that time felt like it had stretched eons...


Judge Comments

bluesidra

Okay, so, I read this back to back with "To Each His Own," and these two are now in the same universe, and my unshakable headcanon for the events of generations ep11. What a lovely, sweet, short and heavy-hitting story. Oh, and thanks for the music recommendation. It’s really a depressing banger.

So, Saturn, huh? Had to look up who he was, because that’s as little as I cared for the Galactic admins before. Now I want to give him a hug. It’s somewhat relieving to see him get out of that cultish mindset and unravel himself from Cyrus’s influence, even if he could only do it after his trust had been greatly betrayed. I wish that would have come earlier, because Saturn seems to have gone through some shit already.

Narratively, considering the pov and all, I think it works better if Saturn’s past is left in the shadows. But whump-loving me would have loved an in-depth description of what fucked-up life he had before.

But yeah. Love the way he described using the meteors as therapists. It speaks loudly about the stress he endured and the baggage he already carried, and still gave his all to further Galactic’s goal. So Cyrus must have either been really good at his deception, or he’s struck a chord in the people of Sinnoh, who gave up everything to create a better world. Also says something about the world we currently live in. (Insert "We live in a society" meme. What I wanted to say was about the state of the pokemon world, but lol, it sounds so pretentious, I’m leaving that)

I’ve talked with a friend about how fucked up Sinnoh seems to be, with how it treats Cyrus and Volkner, how Galactic could even exist in the first place and especially how the narrative convinces us that these people are in the wrong. Cyrus is in the wrong for trying to change things that he finds unbearable, and no one even tries to get to the point of why they are unbearable to him. Volkner (who is very similar to Cyrus in a surprising number of ways) should just get over himself and his depression and function again. I didn’t believe them at first, or at least thought it wasn’t that bad, but the further I dig into gen4, the more the horror dawns on me. Maybe PLA isn’t the darkest game in the series.

Oh, speaking about how fucked up Sinnoh is: Why is Saturn still free??????? If what they did was so bad, where’s law enforcement? How does he even see a rational chance that he will clean up Galactic’s mess? I mean, I’m hella glad I got this version and not him behind bars, but it was one of my first thoughts – and now I chose to believe that there is no police in Sinnoh. People are just high on their own self-importance and as long as no one changes the status quo, they won’t do anything unexpected such as crimes.

On the technical side, it’s very good. At first I had trouble following along. The first three paragraphs were a bit out of my reading habit in terms of complexity. But after re-reading them a couple of times, I got into the groove (also, I have a light headache, so that might factor into my reading comprehension skills.) I really liked the many space-metaphors you used. Very fitting with the theme, and they all worked so well!

SparklingEspeon

In the midst of all the malice and mischief going on, this one was a nice, sobering break. I know basically nothing about the Galactic Commanders, so it’s interesting to see one of them get some time in the spotlight here… especially one who served as the apparent second-in-command.

(I will admit I struggle somewhat with relating the play on rogue/rouge to Saturn - I think it’s Mars that’s usually referred to as the red planet? Minor quibble in the scheme of things though)

This oneshot is all about Saturn reckoning with Cyrus’ betrayal of Galactic, the fallout from that plan, and all the morally dubious things he did for something that would have ultimately killed everyone. That’s a pretty heavy burden to bear, and I think you do a good job of unpacking it all here. It makes sense that one of the highest ranking officials in the organization would be responsible for some of the worst things the team has done in pursuit of their goal (blowing up the lake comes to mind), and that once everything started falling apart it would end up weighing heavy. Once all of it’s over, the question Saturn has to ask is what he’s going to do from here, and if he can forgive himself for all the things he’s done.

I definitely liked the conclusion of him eventually spiting the idea of Cyrus and everything he stood for - though he does share blame for starting the mess, he isn’t like Cyrus, and he doesn’t need Cyrus’ traits or anything of him to clean up all the mess Galactic left behind. While he is technically a villain, this oneshot is about him deciding to cast away all the fears, doubts, and grief Cyrus left behind and do something better with himself instead.

Overall, I think you did a good job capturing the thoughts and ruminations of this character! His thought process, though a bit muddled in places (in a good way, considering he’s having to question everything he previous did and stood for), definitely rang true and made sense, and it also makes sense that even though he’s resolving to do better, that’s all it is - just a resolving. He’s still got a long way to go, and I thought him making that resolve not just to do better, but to do better on his own terms and be separate of Cyrus was a great note to end the piece on. Good work, and thanks for the read!

windskull

I really loved the writing in this one. The imagery was on-point, and every time I noticed use of a literary device like alliteration or metaphors or what not, it felt like it was purposefully chosen to enhance the moment. This fic takes a pre established villain and tries to get into his head. Tries to understand why he did the things he did. And at the end, it has him come to the conclusion that he was in the wrong, and that he needs to stand for himself. And it does a very good job with all of that!

My only real critique is that I found myself wishing for more. There’s an implied backstory here, and I get the idea that you wanted to leave it up to reader interpretation beyond a basic “Saturn had a rough background.” But I do kind of wish we got to see a bit more of his less-fine moments, such as blowing up the lake, instead of just being told that he regrets it. Even if he’s at the precipice of redemption, let us see the villain being a villain!

Even so, the story still works very well without that, and it’s entirely possible that, if additional scenes had been included, I would have felt they were extraneous. So take that critique with a grain of salt.

The only spot of prose I felt was a little weak was the following:

The aura of calm authority which had always swirled about him like rings was gone.
I get what you were going for here, but for whatever reason, I initially struggled through this sentence. While I respect the simile here and know why you want to use it, I think this sentence would have been better off without it.

This fic had excellent scene-setting. The imagery of an empty city, devoid of everyone but Saturn, sets up an uneasy feeling. My only critique is that I wish that uneasy feeling was capitalized on more.

A brief aside before I wrap up—though this affects nothing—was it supposed to be “Rouge Planet” or “Rogue Planet?”

I ended up reading this story three times over the course of my judging. I struggled to take notes on this upon first readthrough because I was just so engrossed in it! I read it a second time to write this review. Then I read it again later to make sure it was as good as I thought it was. And it held up. Regardless of whether or not it would have benefitted from showing more, this was a highly enjoyable reading experience.
 

Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"A Sense of Self" by Blackjack Gabbiani

"Hey, who left the window open?"

"Worry about that later! It's time for cake!"

Good, they weren't going to look for her. Mitsumi's operation had gone according to plan, and she was in and out of the lab while the scientists had been distracted in the other room.

She recalled her Duskull, who had been watching guard for her, and headed into the nearby forest. Veilstone would be just a few hours walk, so she had plenty of time to think. The information had been easy enough to obtain, but she wondered about the reason why...

Read the rest on: AO3 | Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

bluesidra

"A Sense of Self" or "Something as simple as celebrating a birthday becomes an act of rebellion."

I quite like the intensity of Cyrus and the hyperfocus on him. A lot of attention is given to his movements and the way his stares impact Mitsumi. It slows down the pace and it feels like seconds turn into hours, much like it must have felt for Mitsumi, too.

But outside of the tension when watching Cyrus, Mitsumi’s inner life is described very little. On the one hand, being Cyrus’s apprentice, she most likely practises a healthy repression of emotions, too, but there’s not even rationalising here. And on the one hand, I quite like it. It keeps her trip to the store almost shrouded in mystery, because we don’t know why she suddenly feels like having cake. Her motivations only shine through in a very small segment right at the end, and by that time, I had my own theory (it matched!).

Celebrating your birthday means to an extent celebrating your own existence, and with that a clear distinction between the individual ‘you’ and the group of other people. Now individuality is something that Cyrus wishes to erase, and so it’s perfectly logical that he’d react the way he does. But in the entire story, Mitsumi never wants to be perceived as an individual – or at least she never alludes to it. Which means her motivation for her ‘transgression’ is a lot simpler – puberty rebelling against Cyrus, just for the sake of it.

In that regard, the story ends on a happy ending. But the general tone of Mitsumi and Cyrus’s interaction, as well as the many rules she has to adhere to paint a very sad background for this story.

This is a nice and easily digestible (heh) little story that feels like a little glimmer of hope in the pretty grim manga-verse.

SparklingEspeon

There’s definitely an ounce of relatability here - I think we’ve all had that one person who’s just no fun and tries to impose that on you at some point, and that’s definitely reflected in Cyrus being an absolute spoilsport here. I could definitely empathise with Mitsumi going off and doing her own thing at some point, which is what I would have done, honestly. There’s only so much of that kind of thing you can take before it just becomes a downer.

I do think it’s interesting that Mitsumi seems to be a completely new character to the canon here? It might just be me being The Gen IV Fandom Blind One, but I never remembered anything about Cyrus having a ten-or-so-year-old around the base, especially not one that serves as his de-facto child… Perhaps it’s one of his commanders? I’m definitely interested to know more about the supporting lore behind that one, or if she’s just a completely original character. Perhaps she features in another fic somewhere?

Themewise - I have some…. lukewarm feelings on this one. On one hand, we do get the villain’s perspective - Cyrus just doesn’t want people to have fun, he sees it as a corruption, and the theme of the oneshot is expressed in him trying to transpose that view onto his daughter. But at the same time, I didn’t feel like it was the focus of the oneshot. It seemed to me more like the focus was on Mitsumi’s decision to break away from that perspective, and therefore more about her own perspective as a result. It’s neither centering on a villain nor centering on a villain’s perspective, really - most of the oneshot is about how Mitsumi reacts to it, and her own conclusions and her own actions that end up completely divorced from what Cyrus has going at the end. I guess you could say that it’s a villain’s perspective in that Cyrus’ thoughts are the driving factor behind the oneshot, but at the same time I didn’t feel it was the main focus; just like a villain technically drives most if not all of a conflict in a story, what the story chooses to focus on dictates its major components, and here I just didn’t really feel like there was enough of that.

Overall I thought this one was nicely written - I could definitely empathize with Mitsumi’s hesitence to enjoy something as simple as a slice of cake, and the way that she feels almost watched even as she’s cleaning up her “evidence”. That’s a pretty nice feat for such a short work. Nice job!

windskull

I had read a bit of DPA a long time ago, so I had a vague Idea of what was going on here, but did a quick search just to be sure. Even so, I think pretty much all the information that was needed to understand the story is presented within the story itself, something I’m glad of.

On the subject of the villain pov, yes, it’s clearly a villain pov. Something I think the fic does good is give a look into the workings of Team Galactic within the DPA universe. They’re kind of silly and non-serious, but with Cyrus it’s clear they have potential to be trouble.

That said, despite the fact that the perspective is of a villain character, we don’t really see her be a villain. I think one way to alleviate that is to back things up a little and see the mission. Let us get a better understanding of what Mitsumi is doing. Don’t just rely on the shorthand of team Galactic to make it clear to the reader that this person is a villain.

Somewhat in relation to the above of backing. I wish there had been a bit more scene setting at the beginning of the fic. Maybe instead of just having a couple of lines of dialog, Mitsumi could have been described seeing the party or something of that sort.

I didn’t notice any grammar or spelling issues, though there were a couple of sentences that I felt were a little odd and could have been better-worded. Even so, none of them really took me out of the story, so those issues were ultimately minor.

Though I did have quite a few critiques here, I did enjoy this fic. Outside of my feelings with regards to the beginning, I think it is very well-paced. And it was a nice exploration showing that a fic from the perspective of a villain doesn’t *have* to have the villain doing something heinous. They can just be hiding their desire for cake from their boss.

Okay, that was a little bit of a joke, but the point stands. This feels almost like a slice of life story, but from the perspective of someone on a villainous team. It also felt like it was trying to study Mitsumi’s character, in a way. And I think with a bit more work, it could be a wonderful little exploration about the nature of DPA’s Team Galactic.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Spun so Sugar Sweet" by vexology
First-Place Winner

Look back into your memory for me: Cotton candy, strands of sugar pulled lighter than air, grains hot and thready from being pressed into heated metal machinery. Like fairytales settling into life as they whirled around a paper cone. Your eyes sparkled about as meaningfully as the excited babble that came out of your mouth as you accepted your cotton candy from the carnival vendor who told you, “Don’t eat it all at once!”

I know you treasured that memory, because that was how you met your starter pokemon. The gloops of milcery that lined up among the carnival stand shelves bounced in delight at your delight and that candy-coated connection turned into a desire that was real. “Two hundred tickets for your very own souvenir!” You pulled out strands and strands of tickets, earned from playing Voltorb Skee-Ball over and over again, used up all your quarters for the sake of that memory. Oh, how joyful those mindless little milcery were, as joyful as you’d been to taste the candy from their stall, as joyful as they would be to become yours.

You couldn’t have known what that meant at the time. You were only a child, after all, two years shy of becoming a trainer. That carnival, with the automated fairy floss maker, the blinking lights, the computerized interface for ticket distribution – yes, that was years after the era of giants, where droplets flowed into drinks, where nets and webs made up gods. Years before your time. Nowadays, it’s unlikely you’ll meet a pokemon that can say it knows kin at all. Nothing like the love between humans and pokemon...

Read the rest on: AO3 | Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

bluesidra

:nyahorror:

That’s about the one and only reaction this story deserves.

The prose is good and imaginative; easy to follow despite the many detours to description- and memory-land that it takes. Very evocative. And big kudos on finding so many ways to compare things to candy.

But damn, the content… You know these stories where you don’t want to eat anything anymore for the foreseeable future? This is one of them. I don’t know what overcame you the day you sat down to write this, but I’m deeply sorry. Must have been quite the experience. And now my image of alcreamy has gone sour for months to come…

Great story overall. 10/10, glad to never have to read it again.

SparklingEspeon

This certainly wasn’t what I was expecting when I think of villains, but it definitely stands well on its merits. Candy does make a surprisingly good backdrop for horror stories now that I’m thinking about it, and this one definitely used that gimmick for all it’s worth, Like, actually, the way you manage to never waver from the theme of candy while simultaneously spinning Disturbing Stuff into it is commendable. You really sell the perspective and vibe of the oneshot well, and left an impression.

I really liked the way that you did the monologue narration - it’s very lushly described and the amount of candy similes/metaphors used are both mesmerizing and very appropriate for the story. Having it be in monologue format also allows for a more scattered approach that lets the POV speaker interject their own thoughts and sentiments, and that also colors the narrative as well. It feels a lot like a surface-level sweetness, and underneath is something a lot darker and heavier, kind of like the house that’s described. I’m guessing the house was meant to be a hansel and gretel parallel, in which case it lands pretty well.

I also liked all the indirect details dropped in the narration that allows the reader to fridge dissemble everything on their own time - the “giants” mentioned are likely referring to dynamax, which would make that black and red beating heart under the house eternatus, or some fragment of it? And while the narration seems to incorporate the milcery’s thoughts and experiences, it’s clear that this isn’t the same state of mind speaking, implying that at some point, the speaker might have just absorbed them. Or the milcery might have gotten corrupted themselves and went insane on evolution. Which is definitely some fridge horror right there!

I will say that it did take me a couple of readthroughs to catch everything, since it’s not super clear at first glance what’s going on - I definitely had to read a couple more times to realize what the missing gap between the milcery disappearing and the scene we saw depicted was, and all the anecedotes that the milcery shouldn’t have had contrasted with all their memories being so vivid definitely threw me for a loop. It seems like this may have been intentional, though, so YMMV. if your intention was to have some of these details be uncertain and/or for the reader to piece things together on their own time instead of having it upfront, I think you did a good job!

Overall, really good work! Liked the wordplay and indirect storytelling here a lot, and the entire thing has managed to make me slightly shifty-eyes towards candy. Which is an :unquag: moment right there, but also a testament to great writing.

windskull

Oh, I definitely got villain vibes from this one. There’s an argument that could be made that Milcery (Alcremie? I’m not sure which they are by the end so I’m just going to refer to them as the PoV).

The story seems to imply that this is sort of an instinctual thing. It’s just how Alcremie used to evolve, or something along those lines. However, the story manages to thread the line between making me feel like the pov is “just a wild animal” and an actual villain by establishing that no, Milcery didn’t have to do this. This is set in modern day, when they have sweets as a method to evolve. The tone also helps. The entire story has this almost childish feel because of all the talk of sweets and whatnot, but it’s laced with other lines that make the tone turn sinister.

Overall the prose is excellent. It’s descriptive and does a great job of painting a mental picture. There could be an argument that it’s over-described in spots, but I think that deep level of description actually works to make the tone unsettling and creepy.

This fic is written in a sort of second person perspective. It’s not quite second person, because it’s more like a character narrating to someone, but just using a general “you.” It was a bold choice, but I think it works well here. I don’t think the story would have been nearly as creepy in third person. First person, maybe, but then that might have spoiled the twist.

If there’s one thing I could recommend improvement on, it’s clarity. There’s obviously supposed to be a degree of fogginess to the prose to both make things feel creepy and to mask the truth, but there are a few moments here and there where the plot was hard to follow. Namely, it was occasionally difficult to divide where reminiscing on the past ended, and talking to the character in the present day began.

All that said, the Villain PoV was well executed, the prose was good, and the only major critique I had was the clarity in spots, which may have been intentional. This is a delightfully creepy horror story that is just long enough to get the point across and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Excellent job.
 
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Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Stable Predictable Safe" by unrepentantAuthor

"There are open cells closer to the entrance, sir. I could arrange a transfer for your convenience, if you wish."

Even mid-salute, staring straight ahead in disciplined deference, the bisharp somehow managed to look defiant. His kind had that aura of authority, that innate focus, that readiness for decision-making, that made them so adept at leadership. Such a waste, to see this one tasked with an almost purely aesthetic role. His helm, so polished Matthias could see his own face in it, and much of his tongue, wrapped around his neck as it must be. All polish; no practice. A 'guard', indeed. Escape attempts were not made from these cells.

Matthias looked the guard in the eye, and shook his head. "No, I think not."


Judge Comments

bluesidra

CW: Torture – I’m in for a treat :copyka:

Right from the getgo it’s clear that Matthias is a methodical person, who deliberately detached himself from his emotions. And while he might be successful in regards to his new body, he seems to have more problems doing so in the presence of Jesse. His mental detours become more frequent and he has to remind himself often that Jesse is an "occupant."

I have a feeling I’m missing some context here. There’s clearly a connection between Jesse and Matthias, but without knowing any further details, this scene doesn’t hit as hard as it probably would. The revelation that Matthias is a human, too, and that he despises the PMD world he found himself in is interesting, and I have an inkling that it’s a much bigger whoooot?! moment if Matthias is a recurring villain.

However, the anticipation of pain is something I’m very down for. Torture scenes work best with foreplay and Matthias clearly does this well. It’s kinda sad that we only get to see a little of the fear creeping up in Jesse.

I'm going to make you ready to behave differently, and so make you useful. I'm going to be patient with you, and attentive, and return as many times as necessary, until I no longer find any defiance here.

Das the gud stuff! I love this line!

SparklingEspeon

It looks like a semi-familiar character shows up in this one! I haven’t read anything with Jesse Stranger in it before, so it looks like this one will be my first. Matthias is also new, I wonder if he’s a part of the larger mythos or if he was made entirely for this oneshot.

The little hints and snatches of lore that we see across the oneshot are interesting - at no point are we really given enough to grasp a cohesive picture of what’s going on outside the prison that Jesse is locked up in. Matthias is a former human, presumably one of many, who works for an organization that presumably either specializes in catching humans or wants the relic that Jesse had for some other, more nefarious purpose. At most, though, it’s peripheral, so it makes sense that it doesn’t invade the scope of the oneshot too much. In general, I thought what we were given made sense for the narrative at hand, especially in how it related to Matthias’ train of thought.

Matthias himself makes for an interesting villain. He definitely feels like a “cog in the gears” - even if he’s a higherup, he’s not the head honcho of the organization, just the torturer. I do wonder if his longing to recover more of his human past is part of why he’s helping this organization out - he definitely seems to revile being a pokemon, and also doesn’t seem to like it here at all; given the chance I could probably see him going back to the human world pretty easily over staying here.

While it might be unintentional, I also liked the symbolism of volatile, untamed Jesse representing fire, which is volatile and untamed, while cold, composed Matthias represents water, which bides its time and knows how to tame fire. It adds another layer to the whole torture session, especially given the chosen torture method seems to be pseudo-drowning. Matthias’ want to take refuge in ice also complicates the theme - he sees ice as cold and stable, the kind of thing he needs to live up to in order to be able to torture properly. It interests me that he has to keep psyching himself up and continuously retreating back to that area, not because otherwise he’s going to realize that whoops, this is Bad on the morality scale and he probably shouldn’t be doing it but because he’s scared of how volatile his emotions might be if he interacts with them. By retreating into “ice”, he’s embracing being stable, predictable, and safe rather than trying to make any kind of effort to step forward. Which is a pretty well-written villain to me!

While short and simple, this one had some really good narration and symbolism going on, and once I began to pick it apart something that seemed very simple from the start suddenly expanded into something with much more thought and layers than I anticipated. Great job on this one, and thanks for the read! Will be interested to see if the background lore and characters here ever get expanded on…

windskull

I think you hit the villain pov right on the head. Within the first few paragraphs, the way Matthias is framed—from personality to his internal thoughts on others—comes across as clearly bad. They’re traits that could be seen in a gruff or flawed good guy, but the way the prose presents things makes it clear he’s not.

There was one thing that I noticed throughout the fic related to him that I felt was trying to get at something, but that didn’t quite come across. And it was why he kept correcting himself when he thought of Jesse as a prisoner instead of an occupant. It felt like you were trying to get at something, but whatever that something was didn’t click for me. The referral to Jesse as a “man” was much more obvious, since the prose directly addresses the fact that they’re both human. Does it have something to do with Matthias just viewing this as business? I suppose that would tie into the ending. Still, I feel like it could have been just a bit more clear.

For the most part, I think the prose is good. I didn’t notice any grammatical or syntax issues, and both of the primary characters have strong voices. That said, there was one line that stuck out negatively:

Truly human, not this grotesque fiction that the origin of his soul made him anything other than a greninja.
I feel like maybe some words are missing here, as I had a lot of trouble following this sentence.

I think the biggest weakness for this story is that it’s clearly meant to tie into something bigger, but as a result, leaves some gaps that, in a vacuum, the story could have benefitted from addressing. The most notable example being when legendary relics are mentioned.

I think the story can get away with not explaining who Matthias works for. A nebulous “someone bad and powerful” works for the context of the story. And context clues work well enough to address why they might want humans or human descendents (although that *could* be me just suspecting I recognize the source material for this fic and filling in the blanks, so that’s something to keep in mind). But I have no clue why Legendary relics come up or why they’re important. They’re just mentioned, and the fact that they’re capitalized denotes significance, but it’s just glossed over. I may be over focusing on this, but I do think it’s something worth keeping in mind for people coming into this totally blind.

Also, while the story works well enough as a standalone of what I suspect is a character study of Matthias, I did find myself wanting more. But as it was, it did a great job of getting across what was needed. Good job.
 

Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"Tarnishing" by kyeugh

The television set comes to life in the dark, snowy signal noise painting Gemma’s face with its pins-and-needles light, loud static crackling from the speakers. She’s frozen for a second in panic, but quickly comes to her senses and mashes the volume-down button until the sound is just audible.

She’s supposed to be sound asleep right now. Wouldn’t be good to get caught. There are some things that make her father show the dimples that few know he has—he loves mago berry sorbet, and never looks more at peace than when he’s petting his cat Mars—but he’s a stern man, mostly. Best to avoid incurring his wrath.

She knows what she wants to watch, but she’s never watched TV on her own, doesn’t know the channels. So she starts surfing. Each timethe channel changes the screen fuzzes and hisses for a moment before the picture comes in...


Judge Comments

bluesidra

Oh my, that was one emotional ride. Been reading this glued to my seat and had goosebumps and tears welling up several times.

Kudos on how you described the cycle of abuse and its many aspects, from how Ariana goes from protective, loving sister to jaded, coldhearted exec, or how Silver repeats what his dad forced him to do on his golbat. It felt very realistic and all the more horrific for it.

Another standout moment was when I finally connected the dots on which canon character Gemma would grow into. For the first two ‘years’ I wasn’t even sure if we were actually following Giovanni, the two girls felt so OC to me. And then when she chose her name it felt so deserved.

Her transition from using female to male pronouns felt fitting to me knowing canon Silver for my whole life as male, but within the text, there were very few pointers given to the reason behind this ‘decision.’ Other than feeling good about being called anything else but female as well as wanting to distance himself from his past life as much as possible. On the one hand, I like it that way, as I think cramming gender-dysphoria in there would have made it too long. On the other hand, I’m not sure on how fixed his male identity is. But it’s also not a big concern for the overall story.

Way more important is the sense of closure, and that is achieved when the story ‘finishes’ Silver’s and Giovanni’s arc. And of course the very real emotions this story made me feel that I can’t put into words properly for this review. Very good work! Gonna doodle some Gemma/Silver when I’m at it.

he loves mago berry sorbet, and never looks more at peace than when he’s petting his cat Mars

Since I don’t yet know who this is about, I’ll just assume we’re talking about daddy Cyrus and commander Mars. Hehehehe… kinky

Lights come on. He’s standing at the mouth of the hallway. Button-up satin top, matching pants, even a pair of socks—basically wearing a suit even in sleep.

Strong Barney Stinson vibes

an ekans named Mr. Hisser

Awwwwwww <3

White-hot rage takes hold of Silver. "You can’t do that," he says. "No. You can’t just do that. I’m winning. I win. Just admit it. You lost. You can’t—"

An old rule in any game: Only the protagonist is allowed to use healing items.

"I don’t care!" Silver cries. "Everyone saw! I won! You’re weak! YOU’RE weak!’

Omg, this is where the line comes from!!! Should have made that connection sooner!

Wow. Lance. It’s Lance. The champion of the Indigo League.

*him*

Lance smiles, extends a hand. Silver shakes it.

"Very good, young man. I look forward to working with you." Silver smiles.

I legitimately have goosebumps

"No," Silver says. "If I die, I die.

Insert Rocky IV meme

"A dragon’s death," he says. "I respect this wish. Retrieve me when your fight ends so I may apprehend him."

That’s why CPS won’t give you any foster children, Sir!

There’s a water-logged desk. A chair. Even a little blood.

But a Feraligatr that looks a bit rounder than it did before. … Oh! Called it! (Our druid did a similar thing when needing to get rid of a dead body discreetly)

SparklingEspeon

It’s about halfway into Tarnishing when I realize that this is an origin story for Silver, and everything I wasn’t getting before suddenly clicks into place. A lot about this feels very meticulously crafted, and it certainly doesn’t feel like an accident that it only really clicks into place once Gemma steals the totodile. The clues were definitely around before. The narration in particular really flowed well and brought everything together - I was quickly swept away by the prose and it felt like a ride I couldn’t get off of from start to end.

In general I thought this was a really interesting backstory for Silver - he’s a character who’s had some differing interpretations over the years, but this is the first significant AU for him that I’ve come across. I liked the way that everything slowly layered and built up in the story - the first thing we’re shown is the two girls trying to watch tv at night, and then being disturbed by their father who quickly reveals himself as abusive. Then we see that he favors his other daughter over Gemma, and that he seems to train his daughters according to some screwed up idea of strength over nurturing. Things that didn’t make sense at the time, like the TV he wrecked sitting there like it was brand new the next day (who can just pull a TV out of their back pocket like nothing happened?) and Gemma desperately saying that her father can pull her back if he even catches wind of her again (which sounds a little out of the reach of a presumably suburban resident) all make much more sense when the puzzle piece that Giovanni is their father falls into place.

From there it pretty much just picks up plotwise - I liked the reveal that Gemma/Silver’s sister wound up as Ariana, and the duality between kindness and darkness that Silver has going on. He’s obviously kind to his pokemon in a way that no-one else in his life is, and they love him back enough that he can get evolutions like crobat that are love-based. But at the same time, he’s definitely harboring some kind of darkness from his past life within. I think it’s fitting that the last scene of the oneshot we see is Silver taking revenge on his father for all the terrible treatment he got. It plays both to that anger/darkness inside of him, and to the fact that he’s ultimately focused on moving on from it, rather than embracing what his father wanted him to embrace. Kind of like a dual motives thing.

Themewise - The obvious reach for the theme here is that Silver technically qualifies as “villain” in mainline pokemon (I would argue antihero), and he’s technically on the wrong side of the law for 90% of the oneshot. It also seems to me like there was some grasping at Silver harboring some kind of darkness inside him - he does shove the referee and break Lyra’s arm near the end once he feels the battle was called unfairly, after all. As said above, it’s contrasted with him resolving to not be like his sister and father and train his pokemon the right way, but it still seems like there’s a fragment of them left in him that surfaces every once in a while. I’ll fully admit I might be digging way further into this than the author intended - I think I probably would have wanted to see more of some kind of acknowledgement of it. I can probably extrapolate on my own that Silver killing Giovanni is both an indulgement of those violent/angry tendencies he harbors and a way of moving past his trauma, though I think it would have hit harder if the story put emphasis on that aspect of it in some way. But like I said, it’s entirely possible this wasn’t even the intent of the oneshot and I might just be making shapes in the clouds - just some food for thought!

There were some really nice things flying around in here, and I had a fun time with it - thanks for the read!

windskull

We. Stan. A. Trans. Silver. It was fun working out what was going on. The moment we see Professor Elm, but before Silver gives himself a new name, it clicked. Everything fell into place. Why he had a sister named Ariana. Why his father was mentioned as a former gym leader, but not named. I have to say, I think this is the first time I’ve seen a story make Ariana his sister, instead of his mother.

I feel split on how well this was executed as a “villain” story. On one hand, Silver is treated as pretty sympathetic by the story—he clearly has a lot of issues he’s coping with due to his childhood, and really outside of the ending his negative actions are fairly minor. On the other hand, he *does* flip out at Lyra at the end of the story because he feels cheated, and carries out the extrajudicial killing of his father. Outside of his behavior towards Lyra, and arguably stealing totodile in the first place (given the implications that there was a way to do things legally via Elm), most of his behaviors read as more neutral than anything. As a result he ends up coming across more as an anti-hero than a true villain to me.

Part of that may be a product of running out of time to develop ideas in a more villainous direction. I know this story is just barely under the word limit, so maybe that’s an issue. But perhaps I’m completely misreading the intent.

In general, I think the prose was good. It was just descriptive enough to suit the story without overdoing it, and I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar issues. I did notice one typo, however:

The best one ever to do it, they said, til’ said he relinquished his title last year to go find himself on Mt. Silver
You have a “said” between til’ he.It took me a minute or two to figure out whether there were extra words here and I was misunderstanding the sentence, or if there were extra words.

Despite my small issues here and there, I do think this is a good story overall. I think it was just a bit limited by the word limit. Whether or not you decide to modify it, should you decide to publish it after this contest, it’ll still be an enjoyable reading experience.
 

Negrek

Shadow Falling
Staff
"To Each His Own" by Lord Knee

It was much too lonely here, Cyrus mused.

In the early morning, the sea on Route 222 gently roared in front of him, filling the quiet atmosphere with a steady white noise. He stood there, watching the water rock and sway in time with the gentle push and pull of the wind. The wind helped in nudging the clouds above aside, gradually unveiling the sun and allowing for some of its rays to slip through. It was enough to morph the chilly air into something a bit more lukewarm. However, the sand beneath his feet remained cool, seemingly unaffected by the shift in temperature. He assumed that would change when the sun climbed higher into its afternoon position, but for now, it was fine and not overly uncomfortable.

After a while, he grew tired of standing, electing to sit down, the plush sand cushioning him as he pulled his legs inward. He stared deeper out to sea, the sunlight making the water glimmer in speckled patches. For the moment, Cyrus inhaled, letting the warm air circulate the back of his throat before exhaling. Admittedly, the conditions were enough to be considered peaceful. He didn’t have to think so much about what he should be doing and how he should be behaving; he didn’t have to continuously teeter between the lines of doing too much or not doing enough. But it wasn’t as though he was doing anything wrong to begin with. Even when he had done something right it was immediately thrown to the wayside. He felt himself beginning to fray, growing tired of doing anything and receiving nothing but ridicule in return.

But, he didn’t have to think about that now. He could simply be a boy by the sea and rise up to no expectations...


Judge Comments

bluesidra

Hello! First off, I’ll have to apologize for not making linequotes for this one, it just didn’t feel appropriate for me to goof around.

Then secondly, what a nice/beautiful/insightful (?) character study. Cyrus always got on my nerves, I was never really able to vibe with him, but you made his plight very reasonable. Like, how he struggles to control his own emotions or is straight up in self-denial about his spirit. In the games, I always thought of him as fraudulent, like he promised a better world but was after world domination for the sake of stroking his ego. But here, I can sort of understand this two-faced nature to him.

It very much feels like it piggy-backs off the generations-episode about him. It shouldn’t make much of a difference which of the (many, MANY) canons it adheres to, one might think, but with cyrus, there’s such a large difference in how he’s presented in dp vs platinum, and I think the generations-shot gives us the best mix of both. So to me this is now my headcanon of what happened before and after that.

It seems Cyrus "simply" being neurodivergent in a neurotypical world has become the official fanon now, and I love the fanbase for it. Because child-Cyrus felt very relatable to me. Especially the part where he thought that no one else was feeling the way he was. When in reality, a lot of people are probably feeling the same, but don’t dare to show it – much like he didn’t dare, too. Sometimes I wonder how people in medieval times dealt with those issues. And I don’t necessarily mean all those mental illnesses that are quite visible (like schizophrenia etc), because that would be possession. More those emotional dissonances that are quiet and inside. Because I figure a peasant in the middle ages still cared a lot for their family members, so seeing someone they love go through depression without an explanation would be harrowing. At the same time, there are almost no sources detailing conditions like depression, so maybe it’s really a modern illness. But enough of my rambling.

Yeah, Cyrus is really just a normal kid in kinda shitty, kinda normal circumstances who tries to deal with his turmoil the best he can. It always surprises me when characters like him find the strength to gather followers and form an organization, when he could have created his perfect world in his mind at any time. But Cyrus didn’t retreat from the world, but instead faced it to create his perfect universe. Though he doesn’t explain why his perfect bubble would need to see the destruction of all other bubbles. But I guess it’s because he can’t let imperfection exist.

Because to me, not withdrawing and facing the world is a sign of extreme willpower and drive, something he might call ‘spirit.’ And though he manages to call himself out on having emotions here and there, his strive for perfection doesn’t once strike him as ‘imperfect.’ But it fits with your characterisation of him as very flawed and not aware of it.

I think the ending’s quite curious. He doesn’t give up on his plans – the distortion world is not a place he feels is ‘perfect’ for him. And how could it be? Aside from being an absolute mess, he’s still riddled with all his angst and emotions and whatnot. So despite the generations-episode implying he’s finally found his peace, it never felt quite right to me. But in your version, he’s not at peace. He’s still restless, but now in a space that’s more comfortable for him, and I’m happy about that tiny bit, too. (And hey, maybe gira has a degree in psychotherapy, would help the two a lot).

So yeah, this concludes my rather rambly review of this story. I quite liked it, in fact, I liked it a lot, given that me and Cyrus have a complicated relationship.

Oh, I didn’t say anything on the technical side of things: I didn’t explicitly look for any typos and errors, and none made themselves apparent while reading. The sentences are simple and easy to follow. The story kept me engaged from beginning to end, never dragging. Actually, I would have loved to see more of his teenage years even. But alas, wordcount restrictions… I noticed that the scene-breaks were inconsistent. Not that that’s a big issue, but much like cyrus, I don’t like those little pesky imperfections. Oh, and I did notice that loose pattern with the beginning and the end of every scene. Very nice. Very structured, to fit a (probably) autistic child like him. Kinda sad it wasn’t in every scene, to be more noticable, but hey – nice enough seeing what’s there!

SparklingEspeon

Really liked this one. I felt like Cyrus was going to be a pretty popular villain to adapt for a villain’s perspective, but admittedly never really felt like he was much more than a nothingburger of a character hiding behind a good motivation. But you’ve taken the task of giving us his perspective head-on, and overall I’d say you’ve succeeded! There’s a definite rhyme and reason to the way that he works here, and you definitely had me believing that someone who holds the beliefs and approach to society that he does could still found and run such a powerful organization.

One thing I enjoyed while reading was the deep dive we took into his thoughts and exploring why he’s the way he is instead of just stating it. I thought it was really clever to tie what would eventually become Cyrus’ motivation to end the world into the need for quiet in his early childhood/the implications that he might have faced emotional abuse when he was in a very developmental phase. It’s clearly not a normal need for quiet, he’s experiencing the world very differently than everyone else and others’ attempts to connect to him just aren’t working the way they’re hoping, but it feels like a very reasonable beginning for that desire, and sold me on the fact that someone could realistically grow up to be the way that Cyrus is. And even when he’s an adult he never really changes out of that mindset of just not finding people good company, he just learns how to field it better and manipulates it to his own ends. He feels like he has some kind of psychopathy, which helped ground his kind of extreme character perspective a lot.

At one point people do find him again, once he’s wound up in the distortion world (I assume a callback to the actual battle in the games), and I liked the way it was written from his perspective to - every time it feels like they might get close to convincing him, he immediately retracts and refers to it as “deluded garbage” and other similar insults. Then, once they’ve left, he just sits and stews there, and it’s implied he’ll keep stewing there until he dies. He got his quiet after all.

Overall, really good job on this one! You definitely did a good job of deep diving into Cyrus’ perspective, and showing how he grew to be the way he is in the canon games from a very young age.

windskull

Let me start by saying I get what you’re going for. The goal of a villain origin story for Cyrus. However, I think the style of the story really gets in the way of your goal and in the end makes it difficult to follow. We don’t really get to get into Cyrus' head, and we’re kind of just told what’s going on in his head.

A lot of the story comes across as telling. You tell us that Cyrus forms Team Galactic, you tell us about his emotions, his decisions to leave, his naming of his commanders, but we don’t really see it happen. In a different framework, perhaps with the story framed as one or more third parties piecing together parts of Cyrus’ life, it could have worked, but as it is, we end up feeling very distant from the action because we don’t see the action. So my personal recommendation for future works or edits is to either show us the action—in this case by letting us see how Cyrus comes to the conclusion that he needs commanders and how he picks the one he has (and doing the same for the other examples I mentioned)—or frame the story in a way that makes it clear that someone distant from the action is telling the story, giving an excuse for events to be glossed over.

When it comes to description, I think you’re on the right path. There are spots here and there that really shine and really help set the scene. But all the prose surrounding it really muddies things.

I think one major contributing factor I saw was an overuse of “to be” type verbs. There were places where you would use phrases like “were becoming” or similar. One example below.

If this location was discovered, then just like on previous days, he would have to run around looking for another place to reside before he ultimately went home. Staying at home was never an option, but it seemed that the ones he had outside were becoming increasingly more limited the longer this infuriating hyper fishing season lasted.

I would reword it something like this:

Just like on previous days, if this hideaway was discovered, he would have to run around looking for another one before ultimately returning home. Staying at home wasn’t an option, but his hiding spots became limited as the infuriating fishing season wore on.

The reason I went back to rewrite two of the sentences instead of just one because I wanted to touch on two other things, one of which is related. The first is passive voice. I won’t go into the details here, but I highly recommend looking into it on your own time, but the short version is that it makes it feel like your characters are acted on, instead of acting. There are times for it, but it’s a tool that should be limited in use.

The other thing is order of information. It’s a bit of an invisible thing. But there are certain structures to the way information is presented that makes it more clear. And that’’s something I came across a lot throughout the fic. It’s something that’s hard to put my finger on though, so instead of lecturing, I’m going to suggest the following:

Find a few published books — not fanfiction — and read them. Take your time going through them, find passages that you either really like or hate because of the way they’re written. Study those passages and see if you can put together why you like or hate them. Then try to emulate the style of the ones you liked. Studies like that could really help improve your prose.

Additionally, I saw a few formatting issues throughout the story where you used different dividers or the spacing between paragraphs was off, and as far as I can tell these differences were not intentional. I recommend making sure you keep those consistent.

I know I had a lot of critique for this story. But I do think there are ways it could have worked. I outlined a few examples above. So keep at it, keep practicing, and you’ll improve with time!
 
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